Azovstal fighters and foreigners: Ukraine reports exchange of hundreds of prisoners

Ukraine and Russia agree on largest prisoner swap since war began.

Azovstal fighters and foreigners: Ukraine reports exchange of hundreds of prisoners

Ukraine and Russia agree on largest prisoner swap since war began. Among the freed are defenders of the Azov steel plant in Mariupol. In addition, ten foreigners are released - including two Britons sentenced to death by separatists.

Ukraine announced the largest prisoner swap with Russia since the war began in late February. "We managed to free 215 people," said the head of Ukraine's presidential office, Andriy Yermak, on television. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address that Russia received 55 prisoners in exchange, including Viktor Medvedchuk, a former Ukrainian MP and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Zelensky, those released included military commanders involved in defending the Azov Steel Plant in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. They were brought to Turkey in a long-prepared campaign. Those released would stay there "in complete safety" until the end of the war, Zelenskyy explained.

The Russian-controlled separatists in eastern Ukraine had earlier released 10 captured foreigners, including five British. The Foreign Ministry in Saudi Arabia said the men had been brought to the kingdom from Russia. Your journey home will be organized from there. The other freedmen came from the USA, Morocco, Sweden and Croatia.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss spoke on Twitter of "very welcome news". This ended months of uncertainty and suffering for those affected and their families. Among those released was a 28-year-old Briton who had been sentenced to death in a show trial for mercenary work, Health Secretary Robert Jenrick said.

According to information from the BBC, the second Briton convicted at the time was also released. A show trial was also launched against the three others, two of whom were volunteer fighters and one humanitarian worker. A Briton died in Donetsk separatist captivity. The body was handed over to Ukraine in early September and, according to Kiev, showed signs of torture.

Truss thanked President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his efforts and Saudi Arabia for support. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly mediated the matter. "Russia must end the ruthless exploitation of prisoners of war and civilian prisoners for political purposes," Truss demanded.

The release was said to be part of a larger prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine. US citizens Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh are said to be among the returnees, according to US media, citing the families. The men from the US state of Alabama were captured in June during fighting in eastern Ukraine. They had joined the Ukrainian troops in the fight against the Russian invaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on US television on Tuesday that Russia and Ukraine had agreed to exchange 200 prisoners. Erdogan referred to the prisoners as "hostages" but gave no other details. According to reports from Saudi Arabian state media, bin Salman met with a special envoy of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday.

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