By Ebi Kesiena
Moscow and Kyiv have carried out one of the biggest prisoner swaps of the war so far, exchanging a total of 218 detainees, including 108 Ukrainian women, officials from both countries say.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian President’s Staff, said there were 12 civilians among the women freed on Monday.
Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app “Another large-scale exchange of prisoners of war was carried out today, we freed 108 women from captivity. It was the first [Ukrainian] all-female exchange.”
He said 37 of the women had been captured after Russian forces took the Azovstal steelworks in the city of Mariupol in May.
Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov in southeastern Ukraine, withstood weeks of Russian bombardment. Resistance was concentrated in a dense network of tunnels under its Azovstal steel plant.
“Ukraine does not abandon anyone,” Yermak said. According to him, some of the people exchanged were mothers and daughters who had been held together.
Images released by Yermak showed dozens of women, some wearing coats and military fatigues, disembarking from white buses.
The oldest woman is 62 years old while the youngest is 21, the Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said.
Russia’s defence ministry confirmed the swap, saying 110 Russians were freed, including 72 seamen from commercial vessels held since February. It said all those returned would be flown to Moscow and provided with medical and psychological assistance.
Ukraine’s interior ministry said some of the released women had been in jail since 2019 after being detained by pro-Moscow authorities in eastern regions.
The latest exchange was made after prisoner swaps last week when the two sides twice exchanged dozens of soldiers.