Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners of war, despite plane crash last week

Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners of war, despite plane crash last week
Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners of war, despite plane crash last week

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) are seen after a swap at an unknown location in Ukraine. — Reuters pic/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service handout

MOSCOW, Jan 31 — Russia and Ukraine said yesterday they had completed another large prisoner exchange despite the crash last week of a Russian military transport plane that Moscow says was carrying 65 Ukrainian soldiers ahead of a similar swap.

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The two countries have carried out periodic prisoner swaps via intermediaries since the war began nearly two years ago, despite the absence of peace talks since the early months.

The Russian Defence Ministry said each side had received 195 soldiers, while Ukraine said it had got 207 people back.

The Russian Defence Ministry was cited by the RIA state news agency as saying that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had helped broker the deal, adding that its soldiers would be flown to Moscow for medical and psychological treatment.

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“On January 31, as a result of the negotiation process, 195 Russian servicemen who were in mortal danger in captivity were returned from territory controlled by the Kyiv regime. In return, exactly 195 prisoners from the armed forces of Ukraine were handed over,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

‘Our people are back’

President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would continue such exchanges and that Kyiv had indicated it was open to more.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the exchange on X: “Our people are back. 207 of them. We return them home no matter what.”

Ukraine’s state body in charge of PoWs said the 50th such exchange had brought home soldiers involved in defending the cities of Mariupol and Kherson as well as some captured by Russia on Snake Island in the Black Sea.

It said marines and combat medics were among the Ukrainians returned, with 36 injured or seriously ill.

The latest and biggest exchange was on January 3, when 478 captives were traded, also with UAE mediation.

Russia says Ukraine shot down the plane carrying prisoners for last week’s swap with a ground-to-air missile and that all 74 people on board were killed.

Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied that it downed the plane, and has demanded proof of who was on board. — Reuters

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