After nearly eight months of conflict, Ukraine and Russia carried out one of the biggest prisoner swaps of the war. A total of 218 detainees, including "108 Ukrainian women" were freed recently.
Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president's staff, described this as the first all-female exchange. He said 37 women had been captured after Russian forces took over the Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol in May. The interior ministry said some women had been in jail since 2019 after being detained by pro-Russia authorities in eastern regions.
Largest Prisoner Swap
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a total of 218 detainees, including 108 Ukrainian and 110 Russian women, were involved in the exchange. "The next stage of the release of our people from Russian captivity took place. We managed to return 108 Ukrainian women: officers, sergeants, privates, army, navy, territorial, defence, national guards and border guards."
This is the largest prisoner swap since September 21 when 215 prisoners of war, including 124 officers were returned from Russian captivity. Yermak said mothers and daughters were in captivity and their relatives were waiting for them. He pointed out that 12 civilians were among the women freed. The executive described the prisoner swap as a "nervous exchange". Yermak said all the women would undergo a medical examination and rehabilitation.
Viktoria Obidina, one of the women released to Ukraine, said they had no idea they would be exchanged. She had been separated from her four year-old daughter when Mariupol fell. Obidina had been kept in a Russian filtration camp in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.
The Russian ministry of defence confirmed that 110 Russian citizens, including 72 Russian seamen, had returned from Kyiv-controlled territory because of fruitful negotiations. It highlighted that "two Ukrainian women voluntarily refused to return to Ukraine" and will stay in Russia.