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ISW: Russia exploits POW swaps to undermine support for Ukraine

Russia’s accusations against Ukraine are seen as a tactic to obscure its own war crimes and disrupt Ukrainian decision-making.
Ukrainian pastor
Prisoner swap, March 7, 2023. Photo: Dmytro Lubinets, the ombudsman of Ukraine
ISW: Russia exploits POW swaps to undermine support for Ukraine

Russia appears to be using suspension of prisoners-of-war exchanges as another tool to sabotage Ukrainian decision-making, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

The Kremlin accused Ukraine of halting prisoner swaps in recent months, while Ukraine claimed that Moscow deliberately holds prisoners in captivity in an attempt to conceal its war crimes and undermine the Ukrainian government and foreign support.

Following the last prisoner exchange, which took place on 8 February 2024, Russia has committed a series of crimes against Ukrainian prisoners, including execution and using them as human shields on the battlefield, which are prohibited by the Geneva Convention, and purportedly operating a “black market” to sell Ukrainian captives to Russian paramilitary groups, wrote the ISW. Russia is also using a battalion formed mainly of Ukrainian prisoners to fight against their homeland, which is another blatant violation of the Geneva Convention.

Meanwhile, Kremlin-appointed Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatiana Moskalkova has blamed Ukraine for making “far-fetched demands” that caused a pause in exchanges. She added that Russia did its best to maintain a dialogue with the Ukrainian government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

However, the fact that Kyiv has recently opened a third facility for Russian captives on its territory is consistent with several Ukrainian statements that Russian officials are the ones resisting the continuation of prisoner exchanges.

This policy by Russia can be a part of Moscow’s intelligence operation against Ukraine.

“The Kremlin appears to be using the politics of POW exchanges as another rhetorical device to undermine Ukrainian decision-making,” said the US-based think tank.

Ukraine says women in Russian captivity subjected to physical and psychological abuse

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