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Russian forces sell Ukrainian POWs on 'black market' - ISW

Russian forces sell Ukrainian POWs on 'black market' - ISW Photo: Russian forces sell Ukrainian prisoners to Chechens on the "black market" (Getty Images)

Russian military personnel are selling Ukrainian prisoners of war on the "black market" to Chechen militarized groups, who subsequently conduct their own exchanges of captives with Ukraine, according to a report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The agency refers to information from the British daily national newspaper The Times, according to which Ukrainian spokesman Petro Yatsenko of the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War reported that Chechen paramilitary groups are buying Ukrainian prisoners of war from other Russian military units on the "black market" for further trade. Later, they use Ukrainian captives for exchange with the Chechens held by the Armed Forces.

The Times stated that these units likely resort to the "black market" because Chechens currently perform mainly police or logistical functions in the rear areas of Ukraine, where there are fewer opportunities to capture Ukrainian prisoners of war and exchange them for Chechens.

The source notes that although the Geneva Conventions do not have articles explicitly prohibiting the trade of prisoners of war, this practice likely violates provisions stating that "no special agreement shall adversely affect the situation of prisoners of war."

"Reports of Chechen units apparently conducting their own POW exchanges with Ukraine suggest that some paramilitary units within the Russian military, like the Chechen Akhmat Spetsnaz units, are likely not included in wider, higher-level Russian-Ukrainian POW exchanges. Russian milbloggers have repeatedly criticized Chechen forces for their incompetence and lack of involvement in Ukraine, and Chechen forces have been relegated to rear areas or less active sectors of the front after participating in major Russian offensive operations in 2022," the ISW report states.

Prisoner exchange

The latest prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine took place on February 8. One hundred Ukrainians were returned to their homeland.

Since the full-scale invasion, a total of 3,135 Ukrainian defenders have been successfully repatriated from Russian captivity.