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Who was launched within the Ukraine and Russia prisoner swap?

The lots of of prisoners of struggle launched Wednesday in a surprise deal between Moscow and Kyiv included 10 overseas nationals captured in Ukraine, a detailed pal of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, and commanders and fighters of the Azov Regiment, a Ukrainian far-right paramilitary group.

As a part of the swap, Moscow agreed to launch the foreigners in addition to 215 Ukrainians, together with greater than 100 members of Azov. In return, Ukraine mentioned it launched Viktor Medvedchuk and 55 Russian and pro-Russian fighters. The imbalance in numbers, in addition to the releasing of Azov members lengthy portrayed as “Nazis” by the Kremlin, has already sparked criticism in Russia from pro-war nationalists.

Nonetheless, the breadth and depth of the prisoner change — which was brokered with involvement from Saudi Arabia and Turkey — drew reward from the governments of the freed foreigners, a number of of whom had been sentenced to demise in territory occupied by pro-Russian separatists.

Right here’s a quick take a look at those that had been launched.

Viktor Medvedchuk, 68, is a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian opposition politician and shut pal of Putin’s. He was captured in April by Ukraine’s inside safety service, which mentioned Medvedchuk had been in hiding for weeks and claimed he was going to be smuggled out of Ukraine with the assistance of Russia. He was charged with treason final yr and allegedly escaped home arrest in February, two days after the Russian invasion, in response to Kyiv.

Who is Viktor Medvedchuk, the pro-Russia mogul arrested in Ukraine?

Medvedchuk, a longtime Machiavellian determine in Ukrainian politics, seems to be the highest-profile prisoner secured by the Russian facet, although officers in Moscow have been surprisingly quiet about his function within the change, with each the Kremlin and the Protection Ministry shying away from confirming that he was concerned.

The swap has already confronted criticism from Russian hard-liners who say Russia gave up greater than it obtained within the negotiations with Kyiv and are crucial of the Kremlin’s resolution to launch members of the Azov Batallion, whom they view as a neo-Nazi menace that needs to be eradicated.

On Thursday, the Russian Protection Ministry acknowledged that 55 Russian troopers had returned dwelling however didn’t reveal any particulars of the deal. Additional affirmation as an alternative got here from the Moscow-backed separatist chief of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Individuals’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, who claimed credit score for the prisoner change and argued it was essential to launch Medvedchuk due to his previous function as negotiator throughout years of fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists.

“With my very own eyes I’ve seen how through the Minsk course of and out of doors of it, greater than a 1,000 of our guys have been freed with the Viktor Medvedchuk’s assist who wouldn’t have survived in any other case,” Pushilin mentioned in a video posted by Russian state information outlet RIA Novosti. In proof if Medvedchuk’s mercurial function, he was working for Kyiv throughout these earlier prisoner-exchange negotiations.

Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh

Alexander J. Drueke, 40, and Andy Tai Huynh, 28, two U.S. navy veterans from Alabama, had been launched Wednesday after being captured in June close to Kharkiv, the northeast Ukrainian metropolis.

Drueke had instructed household that he was instructing Ukrainian troops the best way to use American-made weapons, his mom previously told The Washington Post. Pleasure Black, who recognized herself as Huynh’s fiancee, mentioned he had volunteered to struggle alongside Ukrainian forces.

Americans freed in sprawling Russia-Ukraine prisoner exchange

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a statement, welcomed information of “the negotiated prisoner change between Ukraine and Russia, which incorporates two U.S. residents captured whereas serving in Ukraine’s navy.” Blinken mentioned: “We sit up for these U.S. residents being reunited with their households.”

Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, John Harding, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill

5 British nationals had been additionally launched Wednesday, the British authorities confirmed. That they had been captured at numerous factors within the struggle. British Prime Minister Liz Truss known as it “vastly welcome information that 5 British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in jap Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and struggling for them and their households.”

Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, John Harding and Andrew Hill had been fighting alongside Ukrainian forces once they had been captured. Dylan Healy is an aid worker who was captured in southeastern Ukraine and reportedly accused of spying.

Ukraine war volunteers are coming home, reckoning with difficult fight

Aslin and Pinner had been charged with performing as overseas mercenaries and sentenced to death by a Russian-backed separatist court within the breakaway Donetsk territory. A Moroccan nationwide, Brahim Saadoun, who was sentenced to demise alongside the Brits, was additionally launched Wednesday. Harding, Hill and Healy had been reportedly awaiting judgment on the identical cost.

In a video that Aslin and Pinner recorded from the plane as they headed again to the U.Ok., Pinner mentioned that they had gotten out “by the pores and skin of our enamel.”

British nationwide Aiden Aslin posted a video aboard a airplane on Sept. 21 saying his launch from Russian jail. (Video: Aiden Aslin)

Denis Prokopenko, 31, leads the Azov Regiment, a right-wing paramilitary unit whose members performed a key function in defending the southeastern Ukrainian metropolis of Mariupol from a weeks-long Russian siege earlier than surrendering in May.

Prokopenko spent years combating in Donbas, the jap Ukrainian area encompasses Luhansk and Donetsk. He was initially a grenade launcher, then assumed command of a platoon and later an organization. In July 2017, he was named commander of the Azov.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February , Prokopenko led the defense of Mariupol, as Azov troopers holed up for weeks below Russian fireplace contained in the Azovstal Iron and Metal Works. For his management function on the entrance line of the battle, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky awarded him the title of Hero of Ukraine.

He was captured by separatist forces once they retook Azovstal after which held in a penal colony in Olenivka, in Donetsk. In June, Russian media reported that the commanders of the Azov Batallion had been taken from Donetsk to Russia for “investigative actions.”

Prokopenko was launched Wednesday and transferred to Turkey together with 4 different Azov commanders, Zelensky mentioned. They’ll stay there till the top of the struggle “below Erdogan’s safety,” the Ukrainian president mentioned in obscure feedback that steered some type of home arrest. Russia’s parliament has taken steps to formally classify the Azov as a terrorist group,

Sergey Volynsky, 30, is the commander of Ukraine’s thirty sixth Marine Brigade, the final remaining unit of Ukraine’s armed forces in Mariupol through the Russian siege that ended within the seize of Azovstal.

Volynsky served in Crimea when Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula in 2014. Throughout and after this time, as a part of the thirty sixth Marine Brigade, he carried out missions round Mariupol.

Last Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol vow to fight ‘as long as we are alive’

In April, a unit of the thirty sixth Brigade below his command merged with fighters from the Azov Battalion to take over the impenetrable community of underground tunnels that shaped the Azovstal Iron and Metal Works, which served because the final Ukrainian stronghold within the area and efficiently diverted Russian sources for weeks. Volynsky turned the voice of Azovstal’s defenders, interesting to world leaders to avoid wasting civilians and the wounded of their ranks.

Volynsky and his unit surrendered on Might 20, the identical day as Prokopenko and the Azov fighters. He was detained by pro-Russian forces and held in Donetsk.

In Mariupol, echoes of history, utter devastation and a last stand

When Volynsky was launched Wednesday as a part of the prisoner swap, he mentioned, “Feelings are overwhelming. Thanks on behalf of the [Armed Forces of Ukraine], the Marines who defended Azovstal.”

David Stern, Dan Lamothe, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Karen DeYoung, Alex Horton and Maite Fernández Simon contributed to this report.

Conflict in Ukraine: What you want to know

The most recent: Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an deal with to the nation on Sept. 21, framing the transfer as an try to defend Russian sovereignty towards a West that seeks to make use of Ukraine as a instrument to “divide and destroy Russia.” Observe our live updates here.

The struggle: A profitable Ukrainian counteroffensive has compelled a serious Russian retreat within the northeastern Kharkiv area in current days, as troops fled cities and villages that they had occupied because the early days of the struggle and deserted massive quantities of navy gear.

Annexation referendums: Staged referendums, which might be unlawful below worldwide regulation, are set to happen from Sept. 23 to 27 within the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk areas of jap Ukraine, in response to Russian information businesses. One other staged referendum shall be held by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson beginning Friday.

Photographs: Washington Submit photographers have been on the bottom from the start of the struggle — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How one can assist: Listed below are methods these within the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people in addition to what people around the world have been donating.

Learn our full protection of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and unique video.

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