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Moscow and Kyiv carry out unexpected swap of POWs

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The announcement came as a surprise after Putin’s announcement regarding a partial mobilization

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were involved in the negotiations. Photo: Fadel Senna / AFP Moscow and Kyiv carried out Wednesday an unexpected swap of prisoners of war (POWs) with 215 Russian and 55 Ukrainian prisoners released, it was reported.

“We have managed to free 215 people,” Ukrainian official Andriy Yermak told local TV reporters. At the same time, Russia recovered 55 prisoners, including former Ukrainian deputy Viktor Medvedchuk, a close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin who has been accused of high treason by Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained. Also, five military commanders, including the leaders of the Azovstal defense, were transferred to Türkiye, Zelensky said.

The released POWs are to remain in that country until “the end of the war” according to the agreement reached with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Ukrainian head of state added. Zelensky also noted that this exchange also included the release of ten POWs transferred to Saudi Arabia, including five British and two American nationals.

The foreigners released included two Britons and a Moroccan who had been sentenced to death in June after being captured fighting for Ukraine. Also freed were three other Britons, two Americans, a Croatian, and a Swedish national.

The announcement came as a surprise after Putin’s announcement regarding a partial mobilization.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said the swap – which involved help from Turkey and Saudi Arabia – had been under preparation for quite a long time and involved intense haggling. Under the terms of the deal, 215 Ukrainians – most of whom were captured after the fall of Mariupol – were released.

“This is clearly a victory for our country, for our entire society. And the main thing is that 215 families can see their loved ones safe and at home,” Zelensky said in a video address. “We remember all our people and try to save every Ukrainian. This is the meaning of Ukraine, our essence, this is what distinguishes us from the enemy.”

Saudi Arabia brokered an arrangement whereby the 10 foreigners were flown to Saudi Arabia. The mediation involved Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has maintained close ties with Putin.

The freed prisoners included US citizens Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, both from Alabama, who were captured in June while fighting in eastern Ukraine. Also freed were Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, who were all sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.