Ukraine and Russia complete the first prisoner exchange since the plane crash

  • Written by Yaroslav Lukiev
  • BBC News

Image source, @V_Zelenskiy_official

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A Ukrainian soldier was seen kissing the country's national flag after the exchange

Russia and Ukraine said they had exchanged captured soldiers, the first such exchange since the crash of a Russian plane that Moscow claimed was carrying 65 prisoners of war.

The Russian military says each side recovered 195 soldiers on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that 207 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have returned to Ukraine.

Kiev has disputed Moscow's claims that Ukrainian prisoners of war were on board the plane shot down by Ukraine last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that the examination proved that the Il-76 military transport plane was shot down by the American Patriot system in the western Belgorod region.

The Russian military previously claimed that 65 Ukrainian soldiers were on board the plane heading to the region for a prisoner exchange.

Six Russian crew members and three officials accompanying prisoners of war were also on board, the military said, adding that there were no survivors.

Putin and the Defense Ministry did not provide any evidence to support their claims.

Ukraine says it is conducting an investigation.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said, in a brief statement on Wednesday, that the recent prisoner exchange process was completed after negotiations with Kiev.

He added, “The released soldiers will be transported by military transport planes… to Moscow to receive treatment and rehabilitation.”

“All those released receive the necessary medical and psychological assistance,” the statement added, adding that the United Arab Emirates is participating in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, President Zelensky wrote in a post on social media: “Our people have returned. 207 of them. We are bringing them home no matter what.

“We remember every Ukrainian in captivity. Combatants and civilians alike. We must bring them all back,” he said, thanking senior Ukrainian security officials for making the recent exchange possible.

A video filmed by Ukrainian authorities shows the released men getting off buses chanting “Glory to Ukraine!”

The men wear Russian prison uniforms – their heads shaved – and many of them look very thin after months, or in some cases two years, in captivity. Some cry – talking to their relatives on the phone.

This is the 50th PoW exchange since President Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Video explanation,

The BBC verified this video, which shows the moment a Russian plane crashed in the Belgorod region

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