War in Ukraine | Ukraine exchanges 144 soldiers, including 95 “Defenders of Azovstal”

(Kyiv) Ukraine announced on Wednesday that it had exchanged 144 soldiers with Russia, including 95 “Defenders of Azovstal” in Mariupol (southeast), who had fought for several weeks in this port city besieged by the Russian army before leaving.

Posted at 11:34 am
Updated at 12:06 p.m

“It’s the biggest exchange [avec Moscou] since the beginning of the Russian invasion,” the Main Intelligence Directorate, affiliated with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, said on Telegram without giving further details on the location and date of the operation.

“Among them are 43 soldiers from the Azov regiment,” a unit that has been integrated into the Ukrainian army for several years but which Moscow calls “Nazi,” Ukrainian intelligence added.

They were exchanged with 52 other soldiers who were also at the Azovstal Steel Works in Mariupol at the time of the Russian attack.

“Most” of the exchanged prisoners “are seriously injured” “by bullets or shrapnel”, but also suffer from “burns, broken bones”, specified the Ukrainian secret service.

The last Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol, entrenched in the vast Azovstal Steel Works on the Azov Sea, surrendered to Russian forces between May 16 and 20 after three months of intense fighting.

On May 28, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to release 2,500 Ukrainian militants from the steel mill.

Pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin confirmed the exchange, saying 144 “soldiers from the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia” “came home” on their side.

The released Ukrainian prisoners are “in a deplorable condition with serious injuries,” he told Telegram.

“They are all receiving medical and psychological care,” said Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate, which on Tuesday announced the release of 17 prisoners as part of another exchange with Russia.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal commented on the exchange on Telegram, describing this prisoner release work as simply “complicated”.

Kyiv and Moscow have held several prisoner exchanges since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

The last one officially announced before these two exchanges took place in early May involved 41 Ukrainians.

The two countries also exchanged bodies of killed soldiers in mid-June, allowing Ukraine to recover the remains of 64 defenders of the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol.

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