October 6, 2022

  • Ukraine and Russia have completed a monumental exchange of prisoners, Zelensky’s office announced.
  • The exchange means that 215 Ukrainians captured by Russia will return to their country.
  • As part of the deal, Viktor Medvedchuk, a key Putin ally in Ukraine, was sent to Russia.

Ukraine and Russia have completed a prisoner swap in which hundreds of fighters and civilians were returned to Ukraine in exchange for the release of 55 Russians and Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s key ally in Ukraine and his daughter’s godfather.

It was announced from the headquarters of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Andriy Yermak published on the telegram channel of the administration that 215 Ukrainians were returned as a result of the prisoner exchange, which Yermak added was also negotiated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Viktor Medvedchuk, a lawmaker and one of Putin’s staunchest Ukrainian allies, was sent to Russia, It was reported by Reuters. Ukrainian authorities arrested him in April.

Among the 215 freed Ukrainians were 100 fighters from the controversial, hard-right Azov Battalion, which Russia has previously labeled “neo-Nazis”. Some founding members of the paramilitary group that emerged as a result of the 2014 Russian invasion also wore Nazi paraphernalia and were credited with the name.

Five Azov commanders will remain in Turkey until the war is over, as part of the terms of the agreement, according to The Washington Post.

Over the past 30 years, Medvedchuk has cultivated close personal and political ties to Putin, amassing an estimated net worth from $620 million before the war, according to Forbes. When he was arrested in Ukraine, the authorities seized the yacht, 23 houses, 32 apartments, 30 pieces of land and 26 cars.

Earlier on Wednesday, 10 foreign fighters fighting for Ukraine captured by Russia – including two Americans – were also released in a settlement negotiated in part by Saudi Arabia. The bilateral prisoner exchange is a huge blow to the Ukrainians, who have made significant gains against the Russian invaders in recent weeks.

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