Russia, Ukraine Swap More Than 200 Prisoners Of War


Russia and Ukraine have traded more than 200 soldiers in their latest prisoner swap, officials said Monday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said 106 of its soldiers were released from Ukrainian custody, while Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said that Russia freed 100 Ukrainian prisoners.

Neither announcement disclosed details of how the prisoner exchange was carried out. Yermak said on Telegram that some of the Ukrainian soldiers have severe injuries and illnesses.

He said the latest of the sporadic prisoner swaps during the 14-month war was “not an easy one,” but did not elaborate. Exchanging prisoners is one of the few areas of cooperation between Ukraine and Russia.

Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War alleged that almost half of the 80 men and 20 women soldiers who returned home “have serious injuries, illnesses or have been tortured,” although it offered no evidence for its claims.

Ukrainian news reports said one of the female prisoners returned is Valeriia Karpilenko, a border guard who had helped defend Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant. Last May, she married a Ukrainian soldier in the steel plant’s basement while Russian forces surrounded the complex, but her husband was killed three days later.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the freed Russians were being flown on military transport planes to Moscow for medical treatment and rehabilitation.

Belarus seeks assurances 

Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Monday his country needs security guarantees from Russia, according to state broadcaster BelTA.

The comments came as Lukashenko hosted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

According to BelTA, Lukashenko cited his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, saying the two leaders discussed the need for Russia to protect Belarus “as its own territory” if there was “aggression” toward Belarus.

Putin drew criticism last month when he announced Russia would deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Russian forces also used Belarus as a staging area to launch the full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than one year ago, after the two allies claimed they were holding only military drills with no plan for an attack on Ukraine.

More shelling in the east 

On the battlefront, Ukraine’s presidential office said at least six civilians were wounded in the latest Russian shelling. Separately, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian forces struck a power plant and residential buildings in the eastern province.

Russian troops also attacked Ukrainian positions around the besieged town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region and other cities and towns with airstrikes and artillery barrages, Kyiv said.

“The enemy switched to so-called scorched earth tactics from Syria. It is destroying buildings and positions with airstrikes and artillery fire,” Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said of Bakhmut.

The head of the Moscow-controlled part of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, said Russian forces now held 75% of the city.

The Russians also shelled nine border villages in Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv provinces.

Zelenskyy denounced earlier Russian airstrikes that coincided with the observance of Orthodox Palm Sunday. The majority of Ukraine’s 41 million people are Orthodox Christians who celebrate Easter on April 16.

“This is how the terrorist state marks Palm Sunday,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. “This is how Russia places itself in even greater isolation from the world.”


The VOA is the Voice of America

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