Russia and Ukraine conduct a substantial exchange of prisoners in the most extensive release during the conflict

After stalled swap deals in the latter half of 2023, over 470 prisoners of war from both sides have now returned home. Russia and Ukraine recently engaged in a significant exchange, marking the largest release of captives since Russia’s invasion began in February 2022.

Ukrainian officials reported on Wednesday that 230 of their prisoners were released, while Russia stated that 248 of its soldiers were returned after mediation by the United Arab Emirates.

Although both sides had experienced multiple exchanges during the war, swap deals had come to a halt in the latter part of the previous year. The latest exchange, the first in almost five months, is a notable development.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared the news in a post on the Telegram messaging app, stating, “More than 200 of our soldiers and civilians have been returned from Russian captivity,” accompanied by a video showing uniformed men celebrating.

Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman, Dmytro Lubinets, provided details, mentioning that 230 Ukrainian prisoners, including six civilians, had been released. He noted that this marked the 49th exchange between the two sides, and Kyiv highlighted it as the largest documented troop swap so far.

Some of the released Ukrainians had been held captive since 2022, including individuals who played crucial roles in significant battles for Ukraine, such as Snake Island and the port city of Mariupol.

The Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed the return of 248 soldiers, attributing the success to “complex” negotiations facilitated by the UAE. However, Russian officials did not provide further details regarding the exchange.

On Wednesday, Russia announced the interception of 12 missiles targeted at one of its southern regions bordering Ukraine. Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, expressed that the situation “remains tense” as Ukraine initiated repeated missile and drone attacks.

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