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Mariupol and Azovstal defenders return home: Ukraine frees 230 soldiers held captive by Russia

Mariupol and Azovstal defenders return home: Ukraine frees 230 soldiers held captive by Russia Ukraine has returned 230 military personnel from captivity (Photo:
Author: Daria Shekina

On Wednesday, January 3rd, Ukraine repatriated soldiers from Russian captivity who were defending Mariupol and Azovstal. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced this on his Instagram, and Dmytro Lubinets, authorized by the Ukrainian Parliament on Human Rights, shared the news on his Telegram.

"Our people are home. Today, we returned over 200 warriors and civilians from Russian captivity. Soldiers, sergeants, and officers. Armed Forces, National Guard, Navy, and Border Guards. Some of the defenders fought in Mariupol and Azovstal," Zelenskyy captioned the video.

Simultaneously, Lubinets shared on his Telegram that 230 military personnel had returned from captivity.

"Today, on January 3, joyful news will spread throughout Ukraine because defenders who have been in enemy captivity for a long time are returning home," he wrote.

This marks the 49th prisoner exchange since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and the first in 2024. Currently, Ukraine has managed to bring home 2828 defenders.

Prisoner exchange

Ukraine and Russia have not conducted prisoner exchanges for several months now.

Back in mid-November, Petro Yatsenko, a representative of the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, stated that Russia had frozen this process. However, negotiations on the exchange of prisoners with Russia have been ongoing.

In early December, President Zelenskyy mentioned that the process of exchanging prisoners between Ukraine and Russia had become complicated due to the aggressor country. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian side had been working on the return of a considerable number of defenders. Presumably, this referred to today's exchange.

The last such exchange took place on August 7th. During that exchange, 22 soldiers returned home, including two officers and enlisted personnel.