Ukraine and Russia carried out the largest prisoner exchange since the start of the war, which may take a new direction after the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of reservists by Vladimir Putin to relaunch his offensive. According to this agreement kyiv obtains the release of 215 peopleamong them the leaders of the Azov battalion of the Mariupol Azovstal metallurgical company, and Moscow will recover 55 prisonersincluding the former Ukrainian deputy Viktor Medvedchuk, close to Putin and accused of high treason. Within the framework of this pact ten prisoners of war were also releasedincluding five British and two Americans, who were transferred by Russia to Saudi Arabia.
Zelensky: “We saved their lives”
Around this exchange of prisoners, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyassured: “We exchanged a fan from Russia for 200 warriors… It’s a good result”. During the exchange carried out in the last hours, Ukraine received 215 prisoners, including 124 Ukrainian officers who were held by the Russians, according to the head of the President’s Office, Andriy Yermak, to President Zelensky during a telephone call with the released .
Among the released Ukrainian prisoners are 108 members of the Azov regiment, a battalion of ultra-nationalists that even the United States defines as a “nationalist hate group”. Among the fighters exchanged is their main commander, Denys Prokopenko, and others considered heroes by the Ukrainians, such as Yevheniy Bova and Lev Pashko. Maryana Mamonova, Yana Shumovetska and Anastasiya Chernenka, who were allegedly captured while pregnant, were also released.
Ten other prisoners of various nationalities held by the Russians were released and sent to Saudi Arabia, where they were accompanied by the head of the State Property Fund, Rustem Umerov. Is about five citizens of Great Britain, two from the United States, one from Morocco, one from Sweden and one from Croatia. About them Zelensky assured: “The enemy sentenced them to a long prison sentence or the death penalty. We save their lives. All of them will return home through the mediation of Saudi Arabia.”
Medical assistance for Russian soldiers
On the other side, The 55 Russian soldiers who were the object of the exchange with Ukraine are already in Russia and are receiving psychological and medical assistance. “As a result of a complex negotiation process, 55 servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, who were in danger of death in captivity, were returned tonight from the kyiv-controlled territory of Ukraine,” he noted. the Defense Ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, in his morning war part.
Konashenkov maintained that they all arrived in Russia on military transport planes and are in medical institutions of the Russian Defense Ministry. “All the released soldiers have had the opportunity to contact their relatives. They receive the necessary psychological and medical assistance,” said the military spokesman.
Who is Medvedchuk?
The pro-Russian politician and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, arrested on April 12 by the Ukrainian security forces, has been considered for 20 years the main agent of influence of the Kremlin in Ukrainian politics, especially in Donbass. “I have known Putin since 2002, when I was head of the presidential administration. I am proud of our friendly relationship,” he told the Efe agency in 2019, who is also part of the prisoner exchange sealed in the last few hours.
Medvedchuk, 67, is for many Ukrainians the “traitor” par excellence for his close ties to Russia, to which we must add that in recent years he was one of the main enemies of President Zelensky. As head of the Ukrainian presidential administration (2002-2004), Medvedchuk coordinated under-the-table cooperation between Moscow and kyiv, interrupted by the Orange Revolution, a setback for the Kremlin that had supported the election of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych.
Troop mobilization begins
Moscow began this Thursday its mobilization of additional troops to reinforce its offensive in Ukraine, after the authorities announced that thousands of people had come forward voluntarily. The Kremlin described as exaggerated the information about the existence of large queues at the country’s airports to try to leave Russia after Putin decreed a partial mobilization on Wednesday.
“The information about the alteration in the airports is greatly exaggerated. There is a lot of false information about it”said the spokesman for the presidency, Dmitry Peskov, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. Peskov called on Russians to be careful “not to fall victim to falsehoods on this matter.”
Searches for “how to get out of Russia” skyrocketed on Google on Tuesday afternoon, when an imminent speech by Putin was already feared, according to statistics released by Google Trends. The call-up will initially affect reservists with military experience. The government estimates some 300,000 new recruits to strengthen the capacity of Russia’s armed forces in the midst of the conflict with Ukraine.
This announcement by President Putin comes after the severe setbacks of the Russian forces in September, with the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the northeast and east of the country. And it coincides with the fact that several Ukrainian territories controlled by Moscow will vote to be annexed by Russia.