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

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged over 200 prisoners of war in what Kyiv called the largest prisoner swap between the two countries since the war began in February 2022.

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

Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War (KSHPPV) described the swap as the “largest exchange of prisoners of war since the full-scale invasion took place.”

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

Soldiers who defended the besieged southern city of Mariupol and its Azovstal steel plant were also exchanged alongside POWs detained in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak.

Posting on Telegram, Yermak called it a “difficult exchange after a long pause.” The last major exchange of prisoners was carried out in August 2023 with Yermak pledging Wednesday to keep working to secure the release of all detained Ukrainians.

In return, Russia said 248 Russian servicemen were returned from Ukrainian controlled territory. In a Telegram post, the Russian defense ministry credited the exchange to “the humanitarian intervention” of the United Arab Emirates.

The ministry pledged to provide all the “necessary medical and psychological assistance” to the returned servicemen, adding that they will receive treatment at ministry-operated medical facilitates.

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