Moscow swaps 45 Azovstal defenders for three pilots in latest POW exchange with Kyiv

The Russian Defence Ministry reported on Friday that three air force pilots have returned to Russia in the latest prisoner swap between Moscow and Kyiv.

The ministry said the swap was a result of a “difficult negotiation process” and assured that the released men have been given necessary medical and psychological assistance.

The head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said that 45 Azovstal defenders — 42 men and three women — have been released from Russian captivity.

“They are all National Guardsmen from a unit established 9 years ago on the shores of the Azov Sea. 35 privates and sergeants, 10 officers,” Yermak wrote.

Among the freed Ukrainian POWs is a serviceman who had already been captured in 2015 and stayed in Russia for 2.5 years. Several years after his return to Ukraine, he was taken prisoner at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.

The previous exchange of POWs between Russia and Ukraine took place in mid-April. Andriy Yermak reported at the time that Ukraine had returned 130 soldiers. Chechen authorities said a day earlier that they had swapped five fighters from the “Sever — Akhmat” regiment.

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