Five days after the release of 12 Ukrainian soldiers and 14 civilians, Kyiv announced on Thursday that 30 Ukrainians had been released in exchange for new prisoners with Russia.
“On the orders of President Volodymyr Zhelensky, a fourth prisoner transfer took place today. Five officers and 17 soldiers were transferred, as well as eight civilians, including one woman,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Verschuk wrote in a telegram.
“In all, 30 of our fellow citizens are returning home today,” she said.
Ms. Verchuk did not specify the number of Russians who had been exchanged for these Ukrainians.
Many soldiers and civilians have already been exchanged between Ukrainians and Russians since the attack began on February 24, each time the two parties have not been officially confirmed.
On April 9, the Ukrainian presidency announced the transfer of 12 soldiers and 14 civilians to the Russians, the latter again without specifying their number.
The day before, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, for its part, had publicly released without conditions the release of two Ukrainian pilots captured and detained in Russia by the Russian military.
The men, Ivan Pepeliachko and Alexei Chiz, were “safe and receiving all necessary medical care,” the ministry said in a telegram.
The two pilots were captured on March 8 near the village of Novaya Bassan, 80 kilometers east of Kyiv, he said in a statement.
“Their place of detention has changed several times. The ministry said they eventually took them to a remand center in the city of Kursk, about 100 kilometers northeast of the Russia-Ukraine border.” They were on cell with eight other Ukrainian officers.
According to one of the two pilots mentioned in the press release, the Russian military “forced them to record promotional videos”. “The Russians threatened to stop providing care to the comrades if we refused,” he said.
On Tuesday evening, President Zhelensky proposed to “exchange” Ukrainian businessman Viktor Medvedevchuk, a close associate of recently arrested Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the Ukrainians held captive in Russia. One proposal was rejected by Moscow the next day.