Ukraine exchanges 55 prisoners of war, Putin ally for 215 troops in swap with Russia

Russian officials exchanged 200 of the captured Ukrainian fighters for one man.

Updated: September 22, 2022 - 10:23am

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Ukraine on Thursday announced having swapped 55 prisoners of war and a high-level ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin for 215 Ukrainian and foreign citizens, including 108 members of the fierce Azov battalion.

Russian officials exchanged the captured fighters for Ukrainian pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, a 68-year-old oligarch whose daughter is a godchild of Putin, according to the Associated Press.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Turkey and Saudi Arabia for helping mediate the prisoner exchange. His country also received 10 foreign citizens who fought in its military – five from the U.K., two from the United States, with the others Croatian, Swedish and Moroccan citizens.

Of the freed Ukrainian fighters, 188 were captured while defending the Azovstal steel factory and Mariupol, both sites of fierce fighting that dragged on for months.

About half of those freed, 108, were part of the Azov Battalion, which has previously faced a United Nations human rights investigation.

Russian officials said earlier this year that members of the group should not be eligible for prisoner exchanges.

Five Ukrainian leaders, including Azov Regiment commanders, were freed and remain safely in Turkey as part of the deal, Zelensky said.