Russia, Ukraine Swap 150 POWs In First Exchange In Months

Zelensky and his Western backers, especially the US and UK, have long claimed that it’s ‘impossible’ to sit down with Russia at the negotiating table. Zelensky even just six months into the war had vowed not to re-enter negotiations with Moscow until Putin is no longer in power.

But as if inadvertently illustrating that negotiations are actually very possible and within reach, Ukraine has announced a successful major prisoner swap, which is a first in nearly four months.

The Friday swap involved each side sending back 75 POWs. A representative for the Ukrainian side, Vitalii Matviienko, said that “Ukraine is always ready” in response to the question of why these swaps had stalled in the last months. But ultimately each side has blamed the other for lack of more rapid progress.

Like with prior swaps, it was reportedly accomplished with the mediation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 150 total from both sides were freed in the rare successful deal.

According to an Associated Press description of the returned Ukrainians:

The Ukrainian POWs, including four civilians, were returned on several buses that drove into the northern Sumy region. As they disembarked, they shouted joyfully and called their families to tell them they were home. Some knelt and kissed the ground, while many wrapped themselves in yellow-blue flags.

They hugged one another, breaking into tears. Many appeared emaciated and poorly dressed.

Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for Treatment of POWs has said that Friday’s swap brings to the total number of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians freed since the war began to 3,210.

“Throughout all of this time, we have not stopped working for a single day to bring everyone home from Russian captivity,” Ukraine’s President Zelensky stated in the aftermath.  

His office further described “These are privates, sergeants and officers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” and posted images of the newly freed Ukrainians on state social media channels.

But about one-third of the former prisoners weren’t in good shape, as international media reports documented that many were injured and disabled, or else seriously ill. However, many also looked fit and well-groomed despite their lengthy captivity.

The Russian side has also confirmed in a Kremlin statement: “On May 31, 2024, as a result of the negotiation process, 75 Russian servicemen, who were in mortal danger in captivity, were returned from the territory controlled by the Kiev regime. In return, 75 prisoners of war of the Ukrainian armed forces were handed over.”



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