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Ukraine-Russia prisoner exchange and Security Service's comment on Crimean Bridge future - Wednesday brief

Ukraine-Russia prisoner exchange and Security Service's comment on Crimean Bridge future - Wednesday brief RBC-Ukraine collage

Ukraine and Russia conducted the largest exchange of prisoners since the beginning of the full-scale war. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Security Service comments on the Crimean Bridge's future.

For more details on what happened on Wednesday, January 3, read RBC-Ukraine's material.

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

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.

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.

Ukrainian Armed Forces advance near Verbove, Russians abandon some positions - General Staff

Ukrainian forces have advanced in the Verbove area of Zaporizhzhia region, compelling occupiers to abandon some of their positions, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

As reported, the Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled an enemy attack near Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Surprises ahead, it's doomed: Ukrainian Security Service comments on Crimean Bridge future

Ukraine managed to strike the Crimean Bridge twice - in October 2022 and in July 2023. Thanks to engineers and military personnel, Ukraine will continue to target the bridge's structures, reveals the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), Vasyl Maliuk.

"This is a real slap in the face to Putin, it's a new milestone in the history of naval forces. As soon as they started building it, we already understood that in case of a full-scale invasion, it would be the main logistical artery for the enemy. Indeed, that's what happened. The enemy troops in southern Ukraine are being supplied via the Crimean Bridge," said Maliuk.

"This is a legitimate target. According to the norms of the Geneva Conventions, other norms of international law, existing legislation, or traditions of warfare, this is a legitimate target because it's an illegal construction on Ukrainian territory," Maliuk explained.

France upholds Ukraine's Belgorod shelling as self-defense right, Russia reacts with outrage

France believes that Ukraine, in self-defense under the UN Charter, has the right to strike back on the territory of the aggressor country, Russia, including targeting Belgorod. This position from Paris triggered a storm of hysterical criticism from the Kremlin.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reminded that there is an aggressor state, Russia, which "implements a strategy of terror through deliberate strikes on key objects of civilian infrastructure, violating international humanitarian law." Meanwhile, Ukraine "acts in self-defense, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter."

EU imposes sanctions against Russian diamond company and its CEO

The EU Council reports imposing additional restrictive measures against Russia's largest diamond mining company, Alrosa, and its CEO, Pavel Marinychev. The company and its CEO were recognized as being involved in the Russian war against Ukraine.

"The new listings target the company PJSC Alrosa and its CEO Pavel Alekseevich Marinychev. PJSC Alrosa is the largest diamond-mining company in the world, owned by the Russian state, and accounts for over 90% of all Russian diamond production," the statement explains.

The EU Council notes that this company is an important part of the economic sector that provides significant revenues to the Russian government.

Ukraine-NATO Council to hold emergency meeting due to massive Russian shelling

In response to the massive Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities, an emergency meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Council will be held. During this session, discussions will focus on enhancing the capabilities of the Ukrainian air defense forces, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba.

The head of the foreign affairs department noted that NATO has supported Ukraine's request for an emergency meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Council "in response to Russia's massive missile and drone strikes."

"One of the key topics will be the strengthening of Ukraine's air defense," the official stated.

Argentina wants to resume talks with UK on Falkland Islands

The government of Argentina has expressed its readiness to resume bilateral negotiations with the United Kingdom to address the issue of the Falkland Islands, which Buenos Aires considers its own, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina.

The archipelago, with a total area of 12,173 square kilometers, is located in the South Atlantic near the southeast coast of South America. Argentina regards it as territory illegally occupied by the UK for 191 years.

On January 3, Argentina confirmed its intention to restore sovereignty over the islands, intending to achieve this through diplomatic means, which the country believes is the "only possible way to restore the exercise of its rights."