Russia and Ukraine Hold Largest Prisoner Exchange in War

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According to the parties’ statements, 230 people returned to Ukraine and 248 to Russia. Russia and Ukraine conducted the first prisoner exchange since August. Kyiv said that it was the largest exchange “in terms of returned defenders’ number” since the war had started. As Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told, 230 of those released returned to Ukraine: 213 soldiers and sergeants, 11 officers and 6 civilians. As omubdsman Dmytro Lubinets specified, among them were defenders of Mariupol, Azovstal and Zmeiny Island. In its turn, the Russian Defense Ministry reported the return of 248 people. Russian propagandists and officials claim that Moscow received 75 of them for the five Azovstal defence commanders who were taken by the Ukrainian President last summer from Turkey, where they were supposed to stay until the end of the war. The exchange took place with the support of the United Arab Emirates. Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine remembered “each and every one” who was in captivity and should “return everyone”. Dmytro Lubinets said that a new exchange might take place in the next few weeks. Analysts of the Institute for the Study of War believe that the timing of the exchange was not chosen randomly: this way Moscow might have tried to portray recent reports of prisoners mistreatment as unreliable and show that Russia is acting within the international law framework.