Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the prisoner exchange with Russia was a victory. Photo/Time
The foreign nationals released included two Britons and a Moroccan national who had been sentenced to death last June after being captured fighting for Ukraine. Also released were three other Britons, two Americans, a Croatian and a Swedish national.
The timing and magnitude of the exchange was surprising, given that Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced a partial troop mobilization earlier in the day in the escalation of the conflict that began in February. Pro-Russian separatists also said last month that the Mariupol commander would be tried.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the exchange – which involved aid from Turkey and Saudi Arabia – had been in preparation for a long time and involved intense bargaining. Under the terms of the deal, 215 Ukrainians, most of whom were arrested after the fall of Mariupol, were released.
In exchange, Ukraine sent back 55 pro-Moscow Russians and Ukrainians as well as Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of a banned pro-Russian party facing treason charges.
“This is definitely a victory for our country, for our entire society. And most importantly 215 families can see their loved ones safe and at home,” Zelenskiy said in a speech on a video.
“We remember all our people and try to save every Ukrainian. This is what Ukraine means, our essence, this is what distinguishes us from the enemy.” Al ArabyFriday (23/8/2022).
Zelensky thanked Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for his help and said five senior Ukrainian commanders would remain in Turkey until the end of the war.
“Kiev has had a long and difficult struggle to secure the release of the five,” he said.