Ukraine introduced the biggest change of prisoners of warfare since Russia launched its invasion in February, with 144 troopers returned to Ukraine, together with dozens of troopers who defended towards the Russian siege of Mariupol, a southern port metropolis that grew to become a logo of Russian repression and Ukrainian defiance.
Whereas the change has been shrouded in secrecy, Denis Pushilin, the pinnacle of Russian proxy forces within the Donetsk area in jap Ukraine, mentioned that 144 Russian and proxy forces had been returned house in change for the 144 Ukrainians.
Greater than 2,500 Ukrainian troopers surrendered in mid-Might after holding out for months in bunkers beneath the sprawling Azovstal metal manufacturing facility in Mariupol. Their give up was rigorously negotiated between Russia, Ukraine and worldwide mediators, and marked the top of one of many warfare’s most brutal battles.
Whereas Ukraine and Russia have exchanged prisoners on a number of events over the course of the warfare — together with 17 Ukrainians returned in an change introduced earlier this week — the destiny of the garrison from Mariupol has been among the many most delicate problems with the warfare.
When the Ukrainian authorities issued the give up directive to finish the standoff, the federal government vowed to do all it might to make sure they’d be returned house.
Higher Perceive the Russia-Ukraine Conflict
The Kremlin propaganda machine had lengthy sought to make use of the far-right origins of the Azov regiment, which performed a lead function within the protection of the town, as proof of its false declare that the Ukrainian state has been contaminated with Nazism.
In his speech saying the Russian invasion, Mr. Putin promised to “denazify Ukraine, in addition to convey to trial those that perpetrated quite a few bloody crimes towards civilians.”
Following the give up of the final garrison in Mariupol, some Russian lawmakers had been fast to name for the demise penalty and even proposed a ban on any change of prisoners that might permit members of the Azov regiment to go free.
In an announcement, Ukraine’s predominant intelligence directorate mentioned that 95 defenders of the Azovstal metal manufacturing facility, together with 43 from the Azov regiment, had been launched in the course of the change. A lot of the exchanged troopers had been significantly injured, the assertion mentioned, together with some which have fractures, burns and amputated limbs.
Included within the change are a husband and spouse, each troopers with the Azov regiment, based on Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the protection intelligence of Ukraine. The husband was captured at Azovstal. His spouse was captured earlier in a distinct location. They’ve two kids.
“The youngsters had been dwelling with out their mother and father,” Mr. Budanov mentioned. “We insisted that the Russians to offer them over.” Each had been a part of the change.
The commanders of the Azov regiment and a marine unit who fought at Azovstal have been moved to Moscow, the place they’re being held on the infamous Lefortovo Jail, based on Mr. Budanov. Amongst these being detained are Lt. Col. Denys Prokopenko, the pinnacle of the Azov regiment at Azovstal, and Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, his deputy, together with Maj. Serhiy Volyna, commander of the thirty sixth Separate Marine Brigade.
“They are saying they’re conducting investigative actions,” Mr. Budanov mentioned, referring to the Russian authorities. “However we perceive they’re present process recruitment — directing them to undertake the Russian place on these occasions. That is warfare, you perceive.”
Mr. Pushilin, the pinnacle of Russian proxy forces within the Donetsk area, mentioned that a number of the troopers handed over to Kyiv had been members of “nationalist battalions” and that they had been in very unhealthy situation. “They’ve extreme accidents, some have amputated limbs and different issues,” he mentioned.
The response of some army bloggers in Russia was swift and indignant, calling the change a betrayal.
Yuri Podolyaka, a preferred pro-Russian blogger, mentioned it was “a spit within the face of troopers on the entrance strains and residents of the Donbas.”
“If that is referred to as ‘denazification’ of Ukraine, maybe it wasn’t price beginning it,” he mentioned in his channel on Telegram, a social messaging app.