Jun 29, 2022 - World

Ukraine and Russia conduct largest prisoner exchange yet

Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire with a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun
Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire towards Russian positions at a front line in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 15. Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine and Russia announced Wednesday that they have conducted their largest prisoner swap since the start of the war in February, with each exchanging 144 prisoners.

Why it matters: "This is the largest exchange since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion," the Defense Intelligence arm of Ukraine's Defense Ministry wrote in a Facebook post.

The big picture: Of the 144 prisoners returned to Ukraine, 95 of them were involved in the months-long defense of the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, which was the last foothold of Ukrainian resistance in the city, per the statement.

  • Among the 95, were 43 were members of the Azov Regiment, a far-right nationalist battalion that had participated in the defense of the city.
  • The oldest of the prisoners is 65 while the youngest is 19. Many of the prisoners have "serious injuries," including amputated limbs, burns, and fractures.

State of play: More than 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers surrendered in May when Russian forces finally completed their capture of Mariupol, per the New York Times.

  • Russia and Ukraine have conducted more than a dozen of prisoner exchanges since the start of the invasion. On Tuesday, 15 Russian POWs were exchanged for 16 Ukrainian POWs and one civilian, AP reported.
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