Ukrainian intelligence reveals details of largest prisoner swap with Russia to date

2 July, 04:11 PM
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A mural reading Azovstal with the emblem of the Azov Battalion in honor of the defenders of Mariupol in Kyiv (Photo:REUTERS/Marko Djurica)

A mural reading Azovstal with the emblem of the Azov Battalion in honor of the defenders of Mariupol in Kyiv (Photo:REUTERS/Marko Djurica)

Ukrainian intelligence has information about each Ukrainian prisoner of war, which is constantly updated, so the latest exchange is only one of the steps towards the return of all Ukrainian fighters home and their rehabilitation, Andriy Yusov, a representative of the press service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, has told Radio NV on June 30.

"Yes, there is confirmed information — 144 defenders of Ukraine have returned, among them many wounded, many bed-ridden, with serious injuries of various degrees, including amputation of limbs,” said Yusov.

“Now it is clear that after meeting them there is a redistribution and groups of Ukrainian fighters go for recovery, examination, and treatment. There is immediate contact with relatives and commanders. Some reach out to commanders in the first place. Then there is a long process of rehabilitation and return to normal life in the native land. This is really important news, today was the largest exchange and return of Ukrainian defenders from captivity during the period of the full-scale Russian invasion, and this, of course, is not the end. There is still a lot of hard work ahead, and the coordination headquarters for the treatment of prisoners of war will continue to work.”

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Regarding the conditions in which the Ukrainian fighters were held, the representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate said that information about this is currently known, but will be disclosed over time.

"We have such information, (and) it’s clear that later there will be more of it, it will be more public. There will actually be more personal, individual stories. Today, we can already hear that the conditions of detention were far from our idea of ​​compliance with the norms of the Geneva Convention, but they were tolerable in this case and, above all, we’re actually talking about the defenders of Azovstal. But at the same time, of course, there was psychological pressure and labor. And provocations and pressure on relatives continue to this day. We’ve heard statements from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation that there will be no exchanges, and this is actually on the day when the exchange is supposed to take place. We know that if medical assistance had been provided more efficiently and of better quality, the condition of many Ukrainian defenders would have been better today. But this is still the subject of a separate study, including unconditional public coverage. The main thing is that today Ukrainian fighters are at home – these 144 Ukrainian heroes. And work on the release of others will continue in the future.”

According to Yusov, out of the 144 released soldiers, 95 are defenders of Azovstal, among them 43 servicemen of the Azov Regiment. In total, 59 soldiers of the National Guard, 30 soldiers of the naval forces, 28 soldiers of the Armed Forces, 17 of the State Border Guard Service, nine Territorial Defense soldiers, and one employee of the National Police were released. By rank, among those released are 23 officers, 69 sergeants and senior servicemen, and other soldiers. The oldest Ukrainian defender released from captivity is 65 years old, and the youngest is 19.

"There is one woman among those released. Actually, this is a separate heroic and dramatic story. This released couple is returning to their children, it was a fairly well-known story in Ukrainian social networks, we will definitely tell about it in more detail."

Regarding the further process of exchange, negotiations and the number of fighters who are in the Russian Federation, Yusov said that the information about the number is constantly updated – around the clock, in fact.

"The prospect of release is through a continuation of a difficult negotiation process, which will continue to be accompanied by various public statements. And we must understand that Ukrainian society here will constantly be under the attack of Russian propaganda, various manipulations. We appreciate how difficult it is for the relatives of Ukrainian prisoners of war, but it is necessary to hold on. And today we have shown that there will be results, regardless of what Russian propaganda broadcasts, no matter what videos they show and no matter how they try to exploit Ukrainian defenders or their relatives. We know the price of freedom, we honor our heroes, and they will be returned. We will not comment on the number now. Public sources have an approximate number of evacuees from Azovstal. We can subtract the outcome of today's exchange and get the relevant figure, but the total number is constantly updated and this work is conducted non-stop."

The Ukrainians were exchanged for a corresponding number of captured invading Russian soldiers, although Defense Intelligence did not disclose specific information about them.

"Later, of course, more detailed information will be provided, but we emphasize once again that this exchange is completely equal,” Yusov said.

“Despite the fact that for us the main priority is to return everyone, the most important thing is to return the seriously injured. Because to save their lives, it was a matter of days and hours. Therefore, it is important that this exchange finally took place, although it could have taken place even earlier – and believe me, the delay is not the fault of the Ukrainian side."

Background

On June 29, Ukraine and Russia  held a large-scale exchange of prisoners, during which 144 Ukrainian defenders returned home.

Tetyana Kharko, a representative of the Association of Families of Defenders of Azov and the sister of the captured commander “Volyna”, Tetyana Kharko, said that the Azov fighters released from captivity are "in a terrible state," although they are happy to return home.

Earlier, the head of the Defense Intelligence Kyrylo Budanov said that Ukrainian intelligence has information about almost all Ukrainian prisoners of war, and Kyiv is taking measures for their return. He also warned that the exchange will take place in several stages.

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