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Ukraine swaps Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk and 55 more men for 215 Ukrainian POWs, including 108 Azov battalion soldiers

Last night, Ukraine held a new prisoner swap with Russia, exchanging Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of pro-Russian party Opposition Platform — For Life and a close ally of Vladimir Putin, as well as 55 more men, for the defenders of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, RBC-Ukraine reports, citing its sources.

Photo: social media

Photo: social media

Ukrainian Telegram channels report that commanders of the Azov battalion Denys Prokopenko, Svyatoslav Palamar, and Serhii Volynskyi were among those exchanged in the swap. Dmytro Kozatskyi, a photographer and fighter of the Azov battalion, was also freed from Russian captivity.

A total of 215 Ukrainian POWs returned home as a result of the swap with Russia, including 108 Azov battalion fighters, Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, said during a telethon. According to him, five commanders of the Azov battalion were swapped for 55 Russian POWs. Another 200 Russian POWs were exchanged for Medvedchuk. There are also 10 foreigners who fought on the side of Ukraine freed during the swap.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during the telethon that the five commanders of the Azov would remain in Turkey until the end of the war. Those were the conditions of the exchange.

It was also reported that a prisoner swap had been held in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region. Photos published on social media show Mariupol Patrol Police Head Mykhailo Vershynin, paramedic Kateryna Polishchuk (call sign Ptashka, or Birdie), and the 36th brigade’s senior sergeant Mykhailo Dianov among the freed prisoners.

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On 23 May, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Medvedchuk’s exchange for the Azov fighters was “unlikely”. “We’ve already said that Medvedchuk is a citizen of Ukraine, he has nothing to do with the Russian Federation. And he’s not in the military. When it comes to the people captured in Azovstal, we are talking about military personnel and members of nationalist formations. So those are completely different categories of people, and an exchange is unlikely in this case,” he said back then.

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