Russia frees 108 women in prisoner swap deal with Ukraine

Two women from the 110-person exchange decided to stay in Russia

Former Ukrainian prisoners of war wave as they arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, after being freed. Reuters
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Ukraine announced it had exchanged more than 100 prisoners with Russia on Monday, in the first all-female exchange with Moscow after nearly eight months of war.

“Another large-scale exchange of prisoners of war was carried out today … we freed 108 women from captivity,” the Ukrainian presidency's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on social media.

Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, confirmed the exchange, saying that out of the 110 people involved in the swap, two had decided to remain in Russia.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said that 72 people returned from Ukraine were part of the crew of civilian ships held by Ukraine since February.

It said all those returned would be flown to Moscow and provided with medical and psychological assistance.

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Mr Yermak said on the Ukraine side that some of the people exchanged were mothers and daughters who had been held together. Thirty-seven, he said, had surrendered at the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol.

Images released by Mr Yermak showed dozens of women — some wearing coats and military fatigues — disembarking from white buses.

Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov in south-eastern Ukraine, withstood weeks of relentless Russian bombardment, with resistance concentrated in a dense network of underground tunnels at its Azovstal steel plant.

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Updated: October 17, 2022, 10:21 PM
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