Prisoner swap frees Putin friend, Azov commanders and British fighters (2023)





The hundreds of prisoners of war released on Wednesday in asurprise offerbetween Moscow and Kyiv included 10 foreigners captured in Ukraine, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and commanders and fighters from the Azov Regiment, a far-right Ukrainian paramilitary group.

As part of the exchange, Moscow agreed to release the foreigners and 215 Ukrainians, including more than 100 Azov members. In return, Ukraine said it had released Viktor Medvedchuk and 55 Russian and pro-Russian fighters. The imbalance in numbers, as well as the release of Azov members long portrayed by the Kremlin as "Nazis", has already drawn criticism in Russia from pro-war nationalists.

However, the breadth and depth of the prisoner exchange, negotiated with the participation of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, drew praise from the governments of the freed foreigners, several of whom were sentenced to death in territory occupied by pro-Russian separatists.


(Video) Russia trades Azov fighters for Putin ally in biggest prisoner swap of Ukraine war

Here's a brief look at the ones that were released.

Viktor Medvedchuk

Viktor Medvedchuk, 68, is a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian opposition politician and close friend of Putin. He was captured in April by Ukraine's internal security service, which said Medvedchuk had been in hiding for weeks and said he would besmuggled out of Ukrainewith the help of Russia. He was accused of treason last year and allegedly escaped house arrest in February, two days after the Russian invasion, according to Kyiv.

Who is Viktor Medvedchuk, the pro-Russian tycoon jailed in Ukraine?

Medvedchuk, a longtime Machiavellian figure in Ukrainian politics, appears to be the most high-profile prisoner secured by the Russian side, although officials in Moscow have been surprisingly silent about his role in the exchange, and both the Kremlin and the Ministry of Defense have shied away. . 🇧🇷 confirming that he was involved.


The exchange has already been criticized by Russian hardliners, who say Russia has given up more than it got in negotiations with Kiev and criticize the Kremlin's decision to release members of the Azov Regiment, which they see as a neo-Nazi threat that must be dealt with. removed.

On Thursday, Russia's Ministry of Defense acknowledged that 55 Russian soldiers had returned home, but did not release any details of the deal. Instead, further confirmation came from the Moscow-backed separatist leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, who took credit for the prisoner exchange and argued that it was important to free Medvedchuk because of his former role as anegotiator through years of strugglebetween Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.

"With my own eyes, I saw how during the Minsk process and beyond, more than 1,000 of our boys were released with the help of Viktor Medvedchuk, who otherwise would not have survived," Pushilin said in a video posted by Russians. state news agency RIA Novosti. In an indication of Medvedchuk's shifting role, he was working for Kyiv during previous prisoner exchange negotiations.

Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh

Alexander J. Drueke, 40, and Andy Tai Huynh, 28, two US military veterans from Alabama, were released on Wednesday after being captured in June near Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine.


(Video) Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap sees Putin ally exchanged for 200 Ukrainian soldiers

Drueke told the family he was teaching Ukrainian troops to use US-made weapons, his mother said.previously told The Washington Post🇧🇷 Joy Black, who identified herself as Huynh's fiancée, said she had volunteered to fight alongside Ukrainian forces.

Americans freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner exchange

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken instatement, welcomed the news of the “negotiated exchange of Ukrainian-Russian prisoners, which includes two American citizens captured while serving in the Ukrainian armed forces.” Blinken said, "We hope these American citizens will be reunited with their families."

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

Five British nationals were also released on Wednesday, the British government confirmed. They were captured at various points in the war.British Prime Minister Liz TrussHe called it "very welcome news that five British nationals detained by Russia-backed prosecutors in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families".


Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, John Harding e Andrew Hill fueronfighting alongside Ukrainian forceswhen they were captured.Dylan Healy is an aid workerwho was captured in southeastern Ukraine and allegedly accused of spying.

Ukrainian war volunteers return home, facing uphill struggle

Aslin and Pinner were accused of acting as foreign mercenaries andsentenced to death by a Russian-backed separatist courtin the breakaway territory of Donetsk. A Moroccan national, Brahim Saadoun, who was sentenced to death along with the British, was also freed on Wednesday.Harding, Hill e HealyThey were reportedly awaiting trial on the same charge.

in a video thatAslin and Pinner record from the planeupon their return to the UK, Pinner said they left "by the skin of their teeth".

Denys Prokopenko

(Video) Russia, Ukraine exchange almost 300 prisoners, including Azovstal & foreign fighters | DW News

Denys Prokopenko, 31, leader oAzov Regiment, a right-wing paramilitary unitwhose members played a key role in defending the city of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, from a Russian siege weeks earliergive up in may.


Prokopenko spent years fighting in Donbass, the region in eastern Ukraine that encompasses Lugansk and Donetsk. Originally a grenade launcher, he later took command of a platoon and then a company. In July 2017, he was appointed commander of Azov.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Prokopenko led thedefense of Mariupol, while Azov soldiers hid for weeks under Russian fire inside the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works. For his leadership role on the front lines of the conflict, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky awarded Prokopenko the title of Hero of Ukraine.

He was captured by separatist forces when they recaptured Azovstal and later held in a penal colony at Olenivka in Donetsk. In June, Russian media reported that commanders of the Azov Regiment were transferred to Russia from Donetsk for "investigative actions".


Prokopenko was released on Wednesday and transferred to Turkey along with four other Azov commanders, Zelensky said. They will remain there until the end of the war "under Erdogan's protection", the Ukrainian president said, in vague comments suggesting some form of house arrest. Russia's parliament has taken steps to formally classify Azov as a terrorist organization.

Sergei Volinsky

Sergey Volynsky, 30, is the commander of the 36th Ukrainian Marine Brigade, the last remaining unit of the Ukrainian armed forces in Mariupol during the Russian siege that ended with the capture of Azovstal.

Volynsky served in Crimea when Russiaannexed the Black Sea peninsula in 2014🇧🇷 During and after that period, as part of the 36th Marine Brigade, it carried out missions in and around Mariupol.

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

(Video) Azov Fighters Come FACE to FACE with Russian Invaders

In April, a unit from the 36th Brigade under his command merged with fighters from the Azov Battalion to take over the impenetrable network of underground tunnels that formed the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, which served as the last Ukrainian stronghold in the region and successfully diverted Russian resources for weeks. Volynsky became the voice of Azovstal's defenders, calling on world leaders to save civilians and the wounded in their ranks.


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

In Mariupol, echoes of history, total devastation and the last battle

When Volynsky was released on Wednesday as part of the prisoner exchange, he said: “The emotions are overwhelming. Thank you on behalf of the [Ukrainian Armed Forces], the Marines who defended Azovstal.”

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

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Russia bet:The Post examined theroad to war in ukraineand Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin's plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior US, Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

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(Video) Ukraine, Russia exchange nearly 300 prisoners in surprise swap


Who was the commander of Azov? ›

The siege ended when a significant amount of the regiment's fighters, including the regiment's commander, Denys Prokopenko, surrendered to Russian forces on orders from the Ukrainian high command.

How many soldiers Azovstal? ›

A military expert estimated that there could still be 500 to 800 Ukrainian soldiers holding out within the city, while Russian officials estimated that 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers and 400 foreign volunteers were holding out within the Azovstal plant.

What is prisoner exchange agreement? ›

Agreement for the exchange of prisoners, detainees, missing persons, arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared persons, and those under house arrest.

What happens to Russian POWs in Ukraine? ›

Russian POWs, held by Ukraine, told interviewers of summary executions and several cases of torture and ill-treatment, mostly when they were captured, first interrogated, or moved to transit camps and places of internment.

What does AZOV mean in English? ›

Azov in American English

(ˈeɪzɔf ; Russian ˈɑzɔf ) Sea of northern arm of the Black Sea, in SE Europe: c. 14,000 sq mi (36,260 sq km) Word List. 'Seas'

How much does the Ukraine Foreign Legion pay? ›

A British volunteer said that the contract required to join the International Legion limits pay to ₴7,000 a month (US$230) and extends for the duration of the war, although some volunteers were allowed to leave after signing.

Why is Azovstal so important? ›

First operational in 1933, Azovstal is one of the largest metal plants in Europe. For decades, it was key to the Soviet Union's railroad system and shipbuilding efforts. It was privatized in the 1990s after Ukraine's independence.

Where are the Azovstal soldiers now? ›

Local media estimates that about 1,000 Azov soldiers are still prisoners of war. And, according to Ukrainian officials, the bodies of an unknown number of soldiers remain buried under the rubble of Azovstal.

Who are the survivors of Azovstal? ›

Inna and Dasha Pavlush have just emerged from hell. They spent the last two months without seeing the light of day, sheltering in the tunnels and bunkers of the Azovstal steel plant, to escape the constant attacks by Russian forces in the devastated city of Mariupol.

What Americans are imprisoned in Russia? ›

Sarah Krivaneklate 20218 December 2022
Brittney Griner17 February 20228 December 2022
Paul Whelan28 December 2018In detention
Marc Fogel15 August 2021In detention
1 more row

Why do prisoners get money when released? ›

In California, people leaving prison each receive $200 as a release allowance, known as “gate money.” This money, given in the form of a debit card, is meant to help with the immediate fiscal costs of reentry back into non-prison life, which might include paying for transportation to get back to one's community, buying ...

What is it called when a former prisoner goes back to jail? ›

Recidivism is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice. It refers to a person's relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime. Learn Why Recidivism Is a Core Criminal Justice Concern. oneword/ (see reuse policy).

Why was Marc Fogel in Russia? ›

Marc Fogel is a resident of Oakmont, Pennsylvania and has served as an international educator for 35 years. He was detained in Russia in August 2021 for possession of marijuana, prescribed by a doctor for his chronic pain.

How does Russia execute prisoners? ›

In Russia, prisoners sentenced to death are executed by a firing squad.

Are prisoners released during war? ›

During the conflict prisoners might be repatriated or delivered to a neutral nation for custody. At the end of hostilities all prisoners are to be released and repatriated without delay, except those held for trial or serving sentences imposed by judicial processes.

How did Azov get its name? ›

The name is likely to derive from the settlement of an area around Azov, whose name comes from the Kipchak Turkish asak or azaq 'lowlands'. A Russian pseudo-etymology, however, instead derives it from an eponymous Cuman prince named "Azum" or "Asuf", said to have been killed defending his town in 1067.

What is the population of Azov? ›

Azov (Russian: Азов), previously known as Azak, is a town in Rostov Oblast, Russia, situated on the Don River just 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) from the Sea of Azov, which derives its name from the town. Population: 81,924 (2021 Census); 82,937 (2010 Census); 82,090 (2002 Census); 80,297 (1989 Census).

Who owns the Sea of Azov? ›

3. Who dominates the Azov Sea? According to the neighbouring countries and the Ukrainian naval forces, large parts of the Azov sea are controlled by Russia.

Do you lose US citizenship if you join the French Foreign Legion? ›

Under Section 401(c) of the Nationality Act of 1940 (1940 Act), U.S. nationals would lose their nationality by serving in the armed forces of a foreign state (1) unless expressly authorized by U.S. law and (2) only if the U.S. national had or acquired the nationality of the foreign state.

How much are mercenaries getting paid in Ukraine? ›

Wanted: multilingual former soldiers willing to covertly head into Ukraine for the handsome sum of up to $2,000 (£1,523) per day - plus bonus - to help rescue families from an increasingly grim conflict.

Do volunteers in Ukraine get paid? ›

Volunteers who help the Armed Forces of Ukraine (deliver and buy weapons, food, work with the wounded) can receive payment for their work. However, this can only happen in case of emergency, says lawyer Olga Durnopyanova.

What happened to Azovstal defenders? ›

The last soldiers in Mariupol surrendered to Russia's forces on May 16 and have been held prisoner in territory controlled by the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

How many left in Azovstal? ›

Talks are ongoing about freeing the reported 1,000 civilians still trapped inside. Russia is meanwhile said to be stepping up its offensive in the east.

How many defenders were from Azovstal? ›

Among them, 95 defenders were from the Azovstal plant, including 43 combatants from the Azov regiment.

Did Azovstal surrender? ›

"The territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant... has been completely liberated," the ministry said in a statement. It said the group that had surrendered comprised 531 people.

How big is the azovstal steel plant? ›

The violence aimed at the port city has been a reflection on how long it has held out, with its defenders dug into well protected positions, including within the labyrinth of the sprawling Azovstal steelworks, covering an area of about 4 sq miles, including underground tunnels.

What happened to the soldiers in the steel plant in Mariupol? ›

Dozens of fighters' bodies recovered from the bombed-out mill's ruins, now occupied by Russian forces, have been transferred to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. DNA testing is underway to identify the remains, said Maksym Zhorin, a military commander and former leader of the Azov Regiment.

Who is Denis Prokopenko Azov? ›

In response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Prokopenko rose as a leader defending Mariupol from the Russian siege. For his leadership role on the frontlines of the war, he was awarded the title Hero of Ukraine in March 2022.

Who is Azov named after? ›

The name is likely to derive from the settlement of an area around Azov, whose name comes from the Kipchak Turkish asak or azaq 'lowlands'. A Russian pseudo-etymology, however, instead derives it from an eponymous Cuman prince named "Azum" or "Asuf", said to have been killed defending his town in 1067.

What was in the Minsk agreement? ›

This agreement consisted of a package of measures, including a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, release of prisoners of war, constitutional reform in Ukraine granting self-government to certain areas of Donbas and restoring control of the state border to the Ukrainian government.

What is the Ukrainian volunteer militias? ›

The Ukrainian Volunteer Corps was founded on July 17, 2014, as one of the "volunteer battalions", created as a response to the rise of pro-Russian separatism and the Russian intervention at the War in Donbas.


1. Ukraine war: Azov fighters describe torture under Russian captivity
(The Telegraph)
2. Two Americans Freed In Russia-Ukraine Prisoner Exchange
(NBC News)
3. Ukraine’s Mariupol defenders, Putin ally Medvedchuk in prisoner swap • FRANCE 24 English
(FRANCE 24 English)
4. Ukrainian soldier recalls being attacked by Russia's Wagner Group
5. Biggest Ukraine Russia Prisoner Swap | Zelensky Says “Not A Pity” To Free Putin Ally For Azov Troops
6. More than 100 Ukrainian women freed from Russian captivity after prisoner swap
(Guardian News)
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