Ukraine and Russia exchange hundreds of prisoners of war in deal mediated by UAE

UAE foreign ministry to continue efforts to find 'a peaceful solution'

Russia and Ukraine exchange prisoners in UAE-mediated swap

Russia and Ukraine exchange prisoners in UAE-mediated swap
Powered by automated translation

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged more than 400 prisoners of war in one of the biggest swaps since the outbreak of the 22-month conflict.

A total of 248 prisoners were returned to Russia from the front line in Ukraine as a result of “complex” negotiations, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday. Ukrainian authorities said 230 Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home.

The Russian ministry said the deal was made possible thanks to mediatory efforts by the UAE.

“As a result of a complex negotiation process, 248 Russian servicemen have been returned from territory controlled by the Kyiv regime,” the statement said.

It added the released prisoners would be provided with the “necessary medical and psychological assistance”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced separately that more than 200 Ukrainian prisoners had been returned from Russia.

“Soldiers, sergeants and officers. Armed Forces, National Guard, Navy and Border Guards. Some of the defenders fought in Mariupol and Azovstal”, Mr Zelenskyy said on X, formerly Twitter.

“I thank everyone who, despite all difficulties, brings our people home. I am grateful to our defenders. We are making every effort to return all of our people who are still in Russian captivity.”

His post included footage of soldiers celebrating draped in Ukrainian flags.

The successful mediation was confirmed by the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Wednesday.

It said the deal was a “reflection of the strong friendly relations” between the UAE and both Russia and Ukraine.

"The ministry was supported by sustained calls at the highest levels and which resulted in one of the largest exchanges of captives between the two sides since the beginning of the war," the statement said.

The ministry also expressed its “appreciation to the governments of Russia and Ukraine for their co-operation and response to the UAE's mediation efforts to make the exchange process a success, despite the challenges posed by the ongoing war”.

It added it would continue in its efforts to find “a peaceful solution” to the conflict in Ukraine through “diplomacy, dialogue and de-escalation”.

Ukraine's human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said 230 Ukrainian soldiers had been released in what he said was the 49th exchange between the two sides.

It is the first significant exchange of prisoners of war since the summer, when about 90 were repatriated.

The 45 Ukrainian soldiers released in the July deal had fought in Mariupol and the southern city's Azovstal steel plant, with others in action on the front line elsewhere.

Ukraine launched repeated missile and drone attacks on Wednesday on Russia's southern region of Belgorod.

Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said the situation “continues to remain tense” in Belgorod, where Russia says 25 civilians including five children were also killed in Ukrainian attacks on Saturday.

“Air defence systems worked,” he said, promising more details about possible damage after inspecting the area later in the day, part of a New Year's holiday week in Russia.

Ukraine fired two Tochka-U missiles and seven rockets at the region late on Tuesday, followed by six Tochka-U missiles and six Vilkha rockets on Wednesday, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

There was no word of any casualties from the latest attacks.

Updated: January 04, 2024, 3:21 AM