Ukraine and Russia carry out the largest prisoner exchange since the beginning of the war | International

Ukraine has achieved in the last few hours the release of 215 prisoners of war who were in Russian hands, as reported on his Twitter social network account Andrii Yermak, head of the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky. This is the most important agreement of its kind since the invasion of the country began on February 24, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In total, 205 Ukrainian citizens have been released, including more than 100 members of the Azov battalion, and 10 foreigners. Some of the latter had been sentenced to death by unrecognized pro-Russian courts in Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine. They are five citizens of the United Kingdom, two from the United States, one from Morocco, one from Sweden and one from Croatia. These have been flown to Saudi Arabia.

Russia, for its part, has managed to get the Ukrainian authorities to release Viktor Medvedchuk, a well-known pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch and an ally of Putin. He tried to flee the country dressed as a soldier in the first weeks of the invasion. In any case, Moscow has not reported so far on this operation to exchange detainees, whose negotiation has been reached behind the scenes, without prior announcement and in one of the moments of greatest tension in the conflict.

The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has facilitated the rapprochement of positions in order to proceed successfully with the exchange, from which more than fifty Russian prisoners have also benefited. Among those released from the Azov battalion are the five top leaders of the Ukrainian resistance at the Azovstal factory in Mariupol. These have been transferred to Turkey, where they will remain until the end of the war, according to sources from the kyiv government. Erdogan was already the hinge on which the two parties to the conflict reached an agreement to unblock the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea ports.

For the kyiv authorities, it represents an important moral victory due to the symbolism of some of the men who have regained their freedom. “Our heroes are free,” said Yermak after referring to Zelenski’s efforts not to forget the prisoners. “Among them are commanders, defenders of Azovstal and pregnant military women,” added the head of the presidential office.

Soon the images of those who have been released have begun to circulate on social networks and the media. The faces of some of them became famous in the hardest days of the siege of the Kremlin troops on Azovstal, in the punished city of Mariupol. Among them, the lieutenant colonel of the National Guard Denys Prokopenko, the deputy commander of Azov Sviatoslav Palamar or the commander of the 36th Army Brigade Serhii Volinskii.

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