Russia and Ukraine are conducting the largest prisoner exchange since the beginning of the war



CNN

Ukraine and Russia have both exchange More than 200 prisoners of war in what Kiev described as the largest prisoner exchange between the two countries since the war began in February 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky He announced the news in a social media post on Wednesday, heralding the return of more than 200 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians from Russian captivity.

The two sides exchanged prisoners throughout the conflict, but this is the first major exchange since August.

Among the group are seven soldiers who defended Snake Island, a rocky island in the Black Sea that became a dramatic symbol of Ukrainian resistance in February 2022 when Ukrainian defenders managed to fend off a takeover by Russian soldiers.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AFP

Ukrainian prisoners of war are pictured after a prisoner exchange near Sumy, Ukraine, on January 3.

Soldiers who defended the besieged southern city of Mariupol and the Azovstal steel plant were also exchanged for prisoners of war held at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Ermak.

A video clip published by the Ukrainian presidency shows released Ukrainian prisoners gathered outside buses. Some are draped in the blue and white Ukrainian flag.

In a post on Telegram, Yermak described it as a “difficult exchange after a long hiatus.” The last major prisoner exchange took place in August 2023 with Yermak vowing on Wednesday to continue working to ensure the release of all detained Ukrainians.

In contrast, Russia said that 248 Russian soldiers were returned from territory controlled by Ukraine. In a post on Telegram, the Russian Defense Ministry attributed this exchange to the “humanitarian intervention” of the United Arab Emirates.

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The ministry pledged to provide all “necessary medical and psychological assistance” to the returning soldiers, adding that they will receive treatment in medical facilities run by the ministry.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised the success of the mediation, describing it as a reflection of the friendly relations that bind the UAE to both Russia and Ukraine, according to the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

The exchange marks a rare moment of cooperation in a war that is approaching its third year and has recently seen some of the deadliest attacks launched to date.

In December Russia Launched It is its largest air attack on Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, killing at least 47 people and wounding more than 150 others.

Shortly after, in one of the deadliest attacks inside Russian territory, Russia said Ukraine bombed the border city of Belgorod, killing 24 people, including three children, and wounding 107 others.

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