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Ukraine, Russia announce surprise prisoner exchange

The greatest prisoner exchange since Moscow’s incursion got underway over seven months ago involved around 300 persons and was carried out unexpectedly by Russia and Ukraine.

Some of the prisoners of war who were freed after being captured in Ukraine and charged with being mercenaries were death row inmates from nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Morocco.

Additionally, Russia released 215 Ukrainians, including the five commanders who oversaw the country’s protracted defence of Mariupol, a port city in the south, earlier this year.

Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of a pro-Russian party that was outlawed and was charged with treason, as well as 55 other Russians, pro-Moscow Ukrainians, and others were sent back in return.

The agreement was reached after lengthy planning and protracted haggling with the aid of Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“There is no doubt that our nation and our entire community have won with this. The most important thing, Zelenskyy stated in a video speech, is that 215 families can now see their loved ones safe and at home. He also thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his assistance.

We want to save every Ukrainian while keeping in mind all of our people. This is what Ukraine stands for, what defines us as a people, and what sets us apart from our adversaries.

Following mediation by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and “in continuation of [his] commitment to the humanitarian measures towards the Russian-Ukrainian situation,” Saudi Arabia previously confirmed the release of the 10 foreigners.

A plane carrying the prisoners had landed in the kingdom, the ministry said in a statement, and Saudi authorities were “facilitating procedures for their safe return to their respective countries.” The group also included five British nationals, two Americans, a Croatian, a Moroccan, and a Swedish citizen.

The ministry withheld the names of individuals who were released.

Aiden Aslin was reportedly among those liberated, according to British lawmaker Robert Jenrick. Aslin was apprehended earlier this year and given a death sentence by a court in the DPR, one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine.

Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were also freed by Russia, a family source said to the news agency Reuters on Wednesday. The two, who are both from Alabama, were taken prisoner in June while fighting with Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine who were fending off Russian invaders.

Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to US President Joe Biden, commended Ukraine “for include 2 U.S. citizens in the prisoner swap” in a tweet. Sullivan also expressed gratitude to the Saudi authorities and the crown prince for securing the release of the prisoners.

We eagerly anticipate seeing our citizens reunited with their family, he wrote.

The release of the British nationals was praised by British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Twitter as “hugely excellent news” following “months of uncertainty and anguish for them and their families.”

Neha Ayub
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