Ukraine swaps Russia collaborator, priest in Russian-led church, in exchange for a 100 defenders

17 February, 12:52 PM
101 Ukrainians returned home from captivity in Russia on February 16 (Photo:Andriy Yermak/Telegram)

101 Ukrainians returned home from captivity in Russia on February 16 (Photo:Andriy Yermak/Telegram)

In yet another prisoner exchange, Ukraine on Feb. 16 handed over to Russia a Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) clergyman who collaborated with Russian invasion forces in exchange for 101 Ukrainians, a Ukrainian intelligence spokesperson has said.

Andriy Yusov, a representative of the Ministry of Defense’s Main Directorate of Intelligence or HUR, said on Ukrainian national television on Feb. 17 that Moscow made a specific request for the collaborator, who himself was in favor of the swap, so Kyiv did not object.

“The exchange was really interesting. Yesterday, in order to return our boys, at the request of (the Russian) party and with his own consent, one collaborator was handed over,”

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“A so-called priest of the Moscow Patriarchate who helped the invaders, leaking various bits of information, and helping hold pseudo-referendums.”

NV’s sister publication Ukrainska Pravda wrote on Feb. 17, referring to sources in law enforcement agencies, that the name of the traitor is Mykola Zirka.

He was the abbot of the Holy Kazan Parish of the Horlivka Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in the village of Yarova, Lyman community, Donetsk Oblast. He was previously sentenced to seven years in prison for collaboration.

On Feb. 16, 101 Ukrainians returned home as part of the exchange with Russia. Among them are the defenders of Mariupol, privates and sergeants, navy servicemen, border guards, National Guard fighters, army troops, and territorial defense members.

The Russians also freed a civilian – the deputy mayor of temporarily occupied Enerhodar, Ivan Samoydyuk – who had been in Russian captivity for 333 days.

In total, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, 1,863 Ukrainians have been released from captivity.

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