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Ukraine swaps pro-Russian politician for Azov members and other prisoners

Ukraine exchanged pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, detained by Kiev for months, for more than 200 Ukrainian prisoners – among them members of the neo-Nazi militia Battalion Azov – and other nationalities that were in the hands of the Russians.

The prisoner exchange took place in the last hours of Wednesday (21) after months of negotiations between the two countries, since last April Medvedchuk himself, a friend of President Vladimir Putin and then detained by the Kyiv authorities, requested through a video that it be exchanged by Ukrainian civilians and soldiers who resisted in Mariupol.

During the exchange held this Wednesday, Ukraine received 215 people, including 124 officers, who were in the hands of the Russians, according to the president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, to President Volodymyr Zelensky during a telephone conversation with those freed.

“Initially, we were offered to return 50 of our people in exchange for one of those held in the Ukrainian Security Service’s detention center. We talked. We insist. The number has increased from 50 to 200. They are already in Ukraine. I think this is a good result,” Zelensky declared in his usual evening speech.

Among the released Ukrainian prisoners are 67 members of the Azov Battalion, who participated in the resistance in Mariupol, including its commander, Denys Prokopenko “Redis”, and other members who are considered Ukrainian heroes.

Human rights defenders Maryana Mamonova, Yana Shumovetska and Anastasiya Chernenka were also freed. , who were captured while pregnant, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Ten other prisoners of various nationalities held by the Russians were released and sent to Saudi Arabia, where they were accompanied by the head of the Property Fund of the State, Rustem Umerov.

According to information provided by the Ukrainian presidential website, the acting head of the Security Service, Vasyl Maliuk, the deputy head of the General Intelligence Directorate, Dmytro Usov, and the Parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dm ytro Lubinets, met with 200 freed Ukrainians.

“Today we directly exchange 200 citizens of Ukraine for Mr Medvedchuk . I would like to point out that Medvedchuk is not just a close friend of Putin, but a well-documented traitor to the state. His guilt is fully recorded in the relevant materials”, said Vasyl Maliuk.

Maliuk also recalled that, during the investigative work on the cases of Viktor Medvedchuk, “various subversive networks were neutralized, traitors to the State were detained and a large amount of information was obtained, which is now used in counterintelligence activities.”

In addition, five more citizens were released in exchange for 200 Russian prisoners, according to information from Ukraine.

Almost all those released are now on Ukrainian territory, except for the five Azov commanders, who, according to agreements previously made with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are in Turkey “under his personal guarantees of protection.”

Pro-Russian politician and oligarch Victor Medvedchuk, arrested in 21 of April by the Ukrainian security forces, is considered for 21 years the main agent of influence of the Kremlin in Ukrainian politics , especially in the Donbas region.

“I have known Putin since 2002, when he was head of the presidential government. I am proud of our friendly relationship,” Medvedchuk told Agência Efe in an interview in 2019.

Medvedchuk, from 67 years, he is for many Ukrainians the “excellent traitor” due to his close ties with Russia, to which must be added the fact that in recent years he has become one of Zelensky’s main enemies.

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