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Ukraine announces ‘big Easter prisoner swap’

Kiev is reporting that Russia has released 130 military personnel though Moscow has yet to confirm a swap

More than 100 Ukrainian prisoners have been released as part of a “big Easter exchange” with Russia, a senior Ukrainian official said on Sunday, when Orthodox Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No confirmation from Moscow immediately followed.

Andrey Yermak, President Vladimir Zelensky’s chief of staff, said the swap has been carried out “in several stages over the course of the last few days.” He added that soldiers, sailors, national guardsmen and border guards were among the service members returned home. “The task is simple: to have everyone returned,” the official said.

According to Yermak, some of the prisoners had been captured in the area of Artyomovsk, the Donbass city known to Ukrainians as Bakhmut. An important logistical hub, the city has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent months.

The Russian Defense Ministry has not confirmed the swap cited by Yermak yet. However, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the private military company Wagner Group, released a video on Sunday of himself instructing one of his fighters to transfer Ukrainian prisoners and place them under Kiev’s authority “by lunchtime today.”

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Russia brings over 100 soldiers back home in prisoner swap (VIDEO)

The video then shows what appears to be a fighter with a Wagner insignia addressing a group of dozens of Ukrainian POWs. “I’ve been authorized today to hand you over to the Ukrainian side before Easter,” the man says. Prisoners are then seen climbing into trucks and marching in columns past an armored vehicle that has a pole with a white flag attached to it.

The Wagner Group is heavily involved in the battle of Artyomovsk. Prigozhin said this week that his forces were in control of “more than 80%” of the city and that Ukrainian troops were holding out in its western suburbs.

The previous prisoner swap between Moscow and Kiev was announced earlier this week. Russia brought home 106 of its soldiers, while Ukrainian officials said that 100 of its service members had been released.

April 16, 2023 at 06:13PM

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