During the most recent prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia, only one Ukrainian woman was released for the exchange, though there are many more female fighters kept in Russian custody, said Mykyta Nadtochiy, acting commander of the Azov Battalion, in a video address on Twitter on July 1.
“On June 29, there was the first exchange of prisoners of war where Russian combatants were swapped for Ukrainian fighters,” he said.
“After the Main Intelligence Directorate had prepared this, Azov servicemen were able to return home.”
He confirmed that 144 Ukrainian soldiers were released in the swap, 95 of which were defenders of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.
“However, there was only one woman in the list of prisoners subject to exchange.” added the Azov acting commander.
This means that the Russian Federation continues to imprison almost all of Ukraine’s female fighters – many of whom are medics, who provided treatment during the defense of Mariupol.
All of the Ukrainian soldiers who have been released and are now back home need medical treatment and some substantial time for rehabilitation, Nadtochiy told. The Azov Battalion’s recovery service is taking care of them, assisted by Ukrainian hospitals and their staff.
“These are only the first steps of a really complicated path,” he noted.
“We have to do whatever it takes to get our fighters back.”
All Russian POWs who are kept in detention in Ukraine are guaranteed to have all the rights that captured combatants should have, according to international law. This includes a right to make a phone call to their families in Russia.
Some Russian POWs have agreed to speak on camera about their military experience in Ukraine, and several YouTube channels broadcast these conversations.
Russia has not afforded Ukrainian POWs similar treatment, and has released propaganda videos involving the fighters, where evidence of force and likely torture can be seen.