A video published by the Defense Ministry showed dozens of soldiers being driven home in buses and provided with food and fresh clothes. Some of them are visibly overwhelmed with emotion, while others appear exhausted. According to the Russian ministry, the soldiers included in the latest swap were in “mortal danger” while in Ukrainian captivity.
The ministry did not provide any further details but said that they would be transported to Moscow for treatment and rehabilitation. All of them were also receiving the necessary medical and psychological aid on the spot, it added. Kiev said that 100 people had been returned to Ukraine.
According to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andrey Yermak, the list includes those captured in the city of Mariupol and its Azovstal steel plant, the final battleground in the months-long fight for the Black Sea city port located in the Donetsk People’s Republic. Some of those returned to Ukraine sustained serious injuries in battles or suffered from various medical conditions, Yermak said, vowing to provide all the necessary medical assistance to them. The presidential aide also called the last prisoner exchange “complicated” and thanked the Ukrainian authorities involved in the effort.
Two weeks ago, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said she was “extremely concerned” about the then-pending exchange, warning that it was “being disrupted” by Kiev’s alleged reluctance to exchange as many as 70 of its soldiers. Later, she said that the Ukrainian authorities had changed their stance on the issue.
Moscow and Kiev have conducted regular prisoner exchanges since the outbreak of hostilities more than a year ago. The previous swap took place on March 7. At that time, the Russian Defense Ministry reported securing the release of 90 servicemen, while Kiev said it was able to bring back 130. In March, Ukraine stated it had transferred an unspecified number of heavily wounded prisoners back to Russia without any conditions, in line with international humanitarian law. The Russian Defense Ministry did not comment on the development, while Moskalkova confirmed that five injured soldiers had been returned.
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