According to T-Online , after the largest exchange of prisoners since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression, Russian hardliners are raging about the deal, which they see as “worse than a crime”.
215 Ukrainian prisoners, including high-ranking commanders of fighters from the Azov steel plant in Mariupol, were exchanged for 55 Russian military personnel, as Kyiv and Moscow unanimously announced. Ukraine also released Ukrainian multi-millionaire Viktor Medvedchuk, believed to be a close confidant of Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin and dubbed his man in Ukraine.
Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Giczan called the move “a worse blow to Russian nationalists than the withdrawal from Kharkiv” in a Twitter thread. With the exchange, the Kremlin’s stated reason for war – the “denazification” of Ukraine – is taken ad absurdum.
According to T-Online, the Russian military blogger Igor Girkin found clearer words. “The release of the British mercenaries and the remaining Azov fighters is worse than a crime and more than a mistake, it is treason,” Girkin wrote on his Telegram channel.
“It’s incredible stupidity or even sabotage and apparently it wasn’t even possible to announce the exchange a few days before the mobilization. To me it looks like the very people who want to stand up and fight for their country are being shitted on.”
“We managed to free 215 people,” said the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, on television on Wednesday evening. According to Ukrainian sources, 188 of them were “heroes” defending the Azov steelworks and the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, 108 of whom were members of the Azov regiment.
According to President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, among those released for Ukraine were military commanders from the Azov steel plant. They were brought to Turkey in a long-prepared action. Zelenskyy explained that those released would remain there “in complete safety” until the end of the war.
Mariupol and the Azov Steelworks have become a symbol of fierce Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invaders. After weeks of heavy fighting, the fighters of the Azov regiment were forced to surrender at the end of April.
In the course of the prisoner exchange, ten prisoners of war from five countries were brought from Russia to Saudi Arabia. Five of those released are from the UK, two from the US and one each from Sweden, Croatia and Morocco.
For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that 55 Russian military personnel had been brought to Russia in return. They were taken to medical facilities. The military were “in mortal danger” during their captivity. “You will receive the necessary psychological and medical help,” said Moscow.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not mention Medvedchuk, a close friend of Putin. According to the pro-Russian separatist leader in Donetsk, Denis Puschilin, the multi-millionaire was released. Pushilin told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that a total of 56 people had been released, including the 55 soldiers. “Viktor Medvedchuk was also released from captivity.”
The 68-year-old former lawyer is a former Ukrainian MP. He was accused of high treason and attempted theft of Ukrainian raw materials in Ukraine, before his arrest he was considered “Putin’s hand in Ukraine”.
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