International Desk, Sep 22 (EFE).- Kyiv has carried out a prisoner exchange with Moscow, which included handing over Kremlin ally Viktor Medvedchuk and 55 others for more than 200 Ukrainians, among them those it considers “heroes” of Mariupol and 10 foreigners.
“Ukrainians! We are bringing our people home. Exchange has just finished. Today we have 215 pieces of good news. 215!” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a statement early Thursday.
In the first part of the exchange, 200 Ukranian prisoners held by Russia, mostly Azov regiment fighters, were swapped for Ukranian pro-Russia oligarch Medvedchuk, 67, who was arrested on Apr. 12 by security forces. He had been under house arrest in Kyiv and escaped soon after the invasion on Feb. 24.
For two decades he had been considered the main agent of influence of the Kremlin in Ukrainian politics, especially in the Donbas; he led the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life party, and his daughter has Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as a godfather.
“I would like to point out that Medvedchuk is not just Putin’s close friend, but a well-documented state traitor. His guilt is fully recorded in the relevant materials,” Acting Head of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Maliuk said in a statement.
Maliuk noted that during the investigative work on Medvedchuk that “a number of subversive networks were neutralized, state traitors were detained and a large amount of information was obtained, which is used in counterintelligence activities,” the statement said.
Zelenskyy said that “it is not a pity to give Medvedchuk in exchange for real warriors. He went through all the investigative actions provided for by law. Ukraine received from him everything necessary to establish the truth in the framework of criminal proceedings.”
Among the released Ukrainian prisoners were around 188 people who defended Mariupol and the Azovstal steelworks, all considered national “heroes.”
In addition, five Ukrainian commanders, including the Azov regiment’s Denys Prokopenko, were released in exchange for 55 Russian prisoners, according to Zelenskyy.
“Our five commanders who are being released from captivity will be in complete safety, in comfortable conditions and under the personal protection of the president of Turkey until the end of the war. But we will provide the opportunity for their families to see them,” he said.
“In exchange for them, we gave 55 of those who deserve neither pity, nor sympathy, nor any words at all. Those who fought against Ukraine. And those who betrayed Ukraine. Those who we definitely do not need.”
Lastly, 10 foreign prisoners held by Russia – five from Great Britain, two from the United States, one from Morocco, one from Sweden and one from Croatia – were also released and sent home via Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. EFE