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215 Ukrainian POWs freed from Russian captivity, including Azovstal defenders

Mariupol defenders return home after prisoner exchange on 21 September 2022. Photo: Volodymyr Zolkin
215 Ukrainian POWs freed from Russian captivity, including Azovstal defenders
Ukraine managed to exchange 215 prisoners of war from Russian captivity. The head of Zelenskyy’s Office, Andrii Yermak, said that 108 of them served in the Azov regiment including its commanders, 124 of the freed PoWs are officers.

Yermak also told that the five commanders were exchanged for 55 Russian PoWs, 200 PoWs were exchanged for “Putin’s man in Ukraine,” pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk. The remaining 10 are foreigners who fought on Ukraine’s side.

The largest part of the exchange took place in Chernihiv Oblast in the late hours of 21 September.

“Finally, we were able to return another part of the defenders of Mariupol, including the fighters of the Azov regiment. Tonight the exchange took place that we’ve been waiting for,” wrote Maksym Zhorin, former commander of the Azov regiment.

In his interview with PBS released on 19 September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that he had negotiated with Putin the exchange of 200 Ukrainian prisoners:

“In Uzbekistan, I got together with President Putin, and we had very extensive discussions with him. And he is actually showing me that he’s willing to end this as soon as possible. That was my impression, because the way things are going right now are quite problematic; 200 hostages will be exchanged upon an agreement between the parties,” he said to PBS.

Photos of those exchanged confirm the release of:

  • Mariupol Patrol Police Head Mykhailo Vershynin:
Mariupol Patrol Police Chief Mykhailo Vershynin during the battle of Mariupol (left) and after his release from the Russian captivity on 21 September 2022.
  • paramedic Kateryna Polishchuk:
Paramedic Kateryna Polishchuk (call sign Ptashka ‘Birdie’) after her release from Russian captivity on 21 September 2021. Photo: Mykhailo Zolkin.
  • the 36th brigade’s senior sergeant Mykhailo Dianov
Sr-Sgt Makhailo Dianov (call sign Beard) during the battle for Mariupol (top) and on the day of the prisoner exchange, Sep 21, 2022. Collage via Twitter/@Gerashchenko_en
  • Mariupol policeman Sviatoslav Yermolov:
Mariupol policeman Sviatoslav Yermolov after his release from Russian captivity (left), before the captivity (right). Collage: social media

Also, Presidential Office Chief Yermak named several more released PoWs:

  • Denys Prokopenko (call sign Redis), Azov commander;
  • Serhii Volynskyi (call sign Volyna) of the 36th marine brigade;
  • Sviatoslav Palamar of the Azov regiment
  • Oleh Homenko
  • Denys Shleha of the National Guard
  • Yevhenii Bova
  • pregnant military medic Mariana Mamonova

8-months Ukrainian pregnant medic held captive by Russians

In his address, President Zelenskyy also mentioned the following released Ukrainian PoWs:

  • Lev Ptashko;
  • Mykola Kuts;
  • Kostiantyn Nykytenko;
  • Dmytro Kozatskyi (call sign Orest) – the famous Azovstal photographer.

Azovstal defender receives a top award of French photography contest

Also, Zelenskyy said that four more female PoWs returned home:

  • Valentyna Zubko;
  • Yana Shumovetska;
  • Zoriana Repetska;
  • Anastasia Chernetska.

Azov Regiment’s commander Denys Prokopenko and deputy commander Sviatoslav Palamar, as well as other Azov and marine commanders were released possibly under the extraction procedure. Yermak said that five commanders will remain in Türkiye under protection and security guarantees.

Commander and deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, Denys Prokopenko (middle) and Svyatoslav Palamar (second from the left) released from Russian captivity. “This photo was taken in Türkiye. Five commanders of “Azov” and marine corps were freed under the guarantees of President Erdogan,” Novynarnia wrote. 21 September 2022.

Sources of the Russian-run “DNR” claim that Ukraine handed over to Russians the “servicemen who were captured as a result of the [Russian] retreat in the Kharkiv direction, as well as captured military pilots of the Russian Armed Forces.”

Update: Presidential Office Chief Yermak told President Zelenskyy:

“Among those whom we’ve released today are 108 fighters of the Azov Regiment, and of other formations – National Guard, the servicemen of the ground forces, navy, border guard, police, territorial defense, SBU officers, transport state servants, state customs service.”

Russia released 10 international POWs, Saudi official says as reported by Reuters

According to Novaya Gazeta, five Azov commanders were exchanged for 55 Russian prisoners of war, and another 200 Ukrainian POWs for Putin’s Ukrainian ally, Viktor Medvedchuk, arrested in mid-April in Ukraine.

In May, Putin’s spox Dmitry Peskov said exchanging POWs for Medvedchuk is impossible, as POWs and the pro-Russian politician are “different categories of people, thus we can’t talk about an exchange.” 

Murder of Ukrainian POWs in Olenivka prison: everything we know

  • On June 29, as part of the largest exchange of prisoners since February 24, Ukraine returned home 144 soldiers, including 95 defenders of Azovstal.
  • In May, Russians transferred the Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol to a penal colony Donetsk Oblast. Ukrainska Pravda’s sources in the Ukrainian power structures claimed that 2,449 Ukrainian servicemen were held in Donetsk’s Olenivka as prisoners of war.
  • Following Kyiv orders, the encircled defenders of Mariupol left their last stronghold in the city – the Azovstal steel mill – on May 16-20. Russia stated that there were 2,439 fighters who came out of Azovstal. The representatives of the Red Cross registered those as prisoners of war.

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