Ukraine, Russia Engage in Rare Prisoner Swap After Months

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For the first time in three months, Russia and Ukraine swapped prisoners of war (POWs), with each country receiving 75 POWs. 

This year’s exchange of 150 prisoners of war was the fourth since February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, and the 52nd overall. This most recent trade was facilitated in part by the United Arab Emirates.

Ukrainians have been holding weekly protests demanding the release of prisoners of war, while Russians have been asking them to swap “all for all” in response to a halt in the swaps. 

On Friday, a number of people went back to their homes, including IT worker Roman Onyschuk, who had volunteered to assist Ukrainian soldiers during the Russian invasion. He mentioned that he had missed three of his birthdays and that all he wanted was to hear his wife’s and son’s voices.

As a result of the trade, 3,210 Ukrainian servicemen and civilians have returned to their home countries since the conflict began. Russia and Ukraine have been tight-lipped on the total number of prisoners of war. 

Dmytro Kantypenko, who was one of the individuals released on Friday, was caught on Snake Island in the Black Sea during the early days of the conflict. He informed his mother that he was back in Ukraine through a phone call. He found out that his son and his wife had escaped to Lithuania.

U.N. reports indicate that most Ukrainian prisoners of war suffer from chronic medical neglect, systematic and severe abuse, and torture while incarcerated. Abuse of Russian soldiers has also been reported on an odd occasion, typically during interrogation or transportation to detention facilities. On their way back to Ukraine, at least one-third of the population had “injuries, severe illnesses, and disabilities.”

After making it through many minor towns, the prisoners of war were sent to hospitals in Sumy for a two-week rehabilitation program. Proud Ukrainians waving blue and yellow flags greeted the return of the POWs with great jubilation.

In the time since the conflict began, the missing persons agency in Ukraine said that approximately three thousand remains, primarily belonging to the military, had been returned to the country. One thousand three hundred were identified.