Ukraine releases 215 prisoners of war after deal with Russia: “Our heroes of Azov are free”

215 Ukrainian armed forces were released on Wednesday night, including 108 defenders of the Azovstal plant. — © EPA-EFE

215 Ukrainian armed forces were released on Wednesday night, including 108 defenders of the Azovstal plant — © AFP

thumbnail: 215 Ukrainian armed forces were released Wednesday night, including 108 defenders of the Azovstal plant.
thumbnail: 215 Ukrainian armed forces were released on Wednesday night, including 108 defenders of the Azovstal plant

Russia released 215 prisoners of war on Wednesday after a prisoner exchange with Ukraine. Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, said. More than half of the released POWs are said to have belonged to the Azov regiment, some of whom defended the Azovstal factory in Mariupol.

Jonas Rosquin

Today at 11:03

“President Zelensky has set himself a clear goal: to get our POW heroes back from Russia. The result is there: our heroes are liberated,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night. According to Ukraine, 215 people were released. “Among them executives, defenders of the Azovstal plant and pregnant women who served in the army.”

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In addition to 205 Ukrainians, the released prisoners of war also included five British, two Americans, a Swede, a Croat and a Moroccan citizen. The foreigners were flown by plane to Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).

Swedish prisoner Mathias Gustafsson arrives in a wheelchair at Riyadh airport

Swedish prisoner Mathias Gustafsson arrives in a wheelchair at Riyadh airport — © AFP

108 prisoners of war were part of the Azovstal regiment, which mainly gained fame and eternal fame for defending the Azovstal factory, the last stronghold of the Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. That city in the south on the Black Sea finally fell completely into Russian hands in May.

Some of the released Ukrainian fighters: Svyatoslav Palamar (2nd from left), Denys Shlega (3rd from left), Denys Prokopenko (central), Oleg Khomenko (3rd from right) and Sergiy Volynsky (2nd from right)

Some of the released Ukrainian fighters: Svyatoslav Palamar (2nd from left), Denys Shlega (3rd from left), Denys Prokopenko (central), Oleg Khomenko (3rd from right) and Sergiy Volynsky (2nd from right) — © AFP

124 released Ukrainians also held the rank of officers. Among them are renowned commanders such as Lieutenant Colonel of the National Guard of Ukraine Denys Prokopenko, deputy commander of Azov Sviatoslav Palamar and commander of the 36th Brigade Serhii Volynskyi. They were the faces of the defense of Azovstal.

Other Azovstal fighters released are Mykhailo Dianov and Kateryna Polishchuk, whose photos from the Azovstal factory went around the world last spring.

Among the released prisoners is Mykhailo Dianov, left on an iconic statue in the catacombs of the Azovstal factory, right after the liberation

Among the released prisoners is Mykhailo Dianov, left on an iconic statue in the catacombs of the Azovstal factory, right after the liberation — © Azov, AFP

According to Yermak, in exchange Viktor Medvedchuk was handed over to Russia. Medvedchuk is one of Ukraine’s leading pro-Kremlin politicians. He was known as Putin’s former right-hand man in Ukraine. Medvedchuk was arrested in April on charges of high treason.

In addition, 55 other Russian prisoners of war are also said to have been released. Their identities were not disclosed. Five of them had the rank of commander. The deal would have stipulated that they would have to stay in Turkey until the end of the war. Turkish President Erdogan would have helped to realize this deal.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Ukraine releases prisoners war deal Russia heroes Azov free

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