Signal: Russia and Ukraine exchange record number of prisoners of war

Russia and Ukraine freed more than 200 prisoners of war in the largest mutual hostage exchange since Russia invaded their neighbor nearly two years ago.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 248 of its soldiers had returned safely from Ukraine, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 224 Ukrainian soldiers and six civilians had been freed from Russian captivity.

“We remember each of our people,” Zelensky said in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “And we have to pay them all back.”

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Ukrainian prisoners of war reunited in Ukraine.
Ukrainian prisoners of war reunited in Ukraine. Credit: Volodymyr Zelensky via X (formerly Twitter).

Kiev’s human rights ombudsman, Dmytro Lubinets, said the deal was the 49th prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, in which 2,828 Ukrainians were released.

Before yesterday (January 3), the most recent exchange was in August.

A deal facilitated by the Emirates

Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement that the agreement was the result of “complex” negotiations that included “humanitarian mediation” by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

See also  Meetings of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolaos Hardalias with the Minister of High Technology Industry and the Deputy Minister of Defense of Armenia, as well as with Representatives of the Greek Community in Yerevan

The UAE is one of the few nations to maintain ties with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. As the Turkeythe UAE has positioned itself as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev.

Ukrainian prisoners of war returned safely to Ukraine.
Ukrainian prisoners of war returned safely to Ukraine. Credit: Volodymyr Zelensky via X (formerly Twitter).

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the exchange “confirmed the UAE’s commitment to continuing efforts aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine”.

In a statement, the ministry reiterated “its position to request a diplomatic solutiondialogue and de-escalation”.

Russia’s defense ministry also said yesterday that Ukraine had targeted the western Belgorod region with missiles and drones. killing 12 adults and two children.

He described the attacks as “indiscriminate”, using “two Olkha missiles with cluster submunitions and Czech-made Vampire MLRS missiles”.

Ukraine’s attack on Belgorod came a day after Moscow launched a major airstrike on Kiev and other cities.

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