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The Ukrainian and Russian armed forces on Thursday carried out the first exchange of prisoners of war since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine a month ago.
“Today, by order of the President [Volodymyr] Zelensky, the first full-fledged exchange of prisoners of war took place. In exchange for 10 captured occupiers, we withdrew 10 of our military,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Facebook post.
“In addition, today we sent 11 Russian civilian sailors to the Russians, whom we rescued from a sunken ship near Odessa,” Vereshchuk said. “As a result of this exchange, 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors are returning home from the salvage vessel Sapphire, which was captured by the occupiers while attempting to take our troops from Snake Island. Under the terms of the l exchange, the lifeboat itself will also be returned to Ukraine and sent to a port in Turkey.
Russia’s human rights commissioner confirmed that a prisoner exchange had taken place, Interfax reported on Thursday.
“I can confirm the exchange of 10 Russian soldiers detained in Ukraine for 10 Ukrainian soldiers,” Tatyana Moskalkova told Interfax on Thursday.
Moskalkova also confirmed the exchange of Ukrainian and Russian civilian sailors.
The development comes a day after Ukrainian officials denied Russian claims that the two sides had already carried out two exchanges of soldiers captured by each side.
Earlier this month, Ukraine transferred a group of Russian soldiers in exchange for Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the Russian-occupied southern city of Mariupol. Fedorov was taken hostage by Russian armed forces after townspeople staged daily pro-Ukrainian protests against the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian officials say Thursday’s swap was the first soldier-for-soldier exchange on both sides.