Ukraine: A relative of Putin freed with 55 Russian soldiers after a prisoner swap
Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of Vladimir Putin who has been jailed in Ukraine since mid-April, has been released in the largest prisoner exchange with Kyiv since the Russian offensive began, a pro-Russian separatist leader confirmed on Thursday. “Viktor Medvedchuk was released,” said the Russian news agency Ria Novosti Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed “Republic” of separatists in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
After a great prisoner exchange
The confirmation comes on the day after a major prisoner exchange between Kyiv and Moscow, after which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy clarified that Viktor Medvedchuk was among those freed. This former MP, who is said to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested by Ukrainian secret services in mid-April while trying to escape on suspicion of treason against Moscow.
Earlier in the day, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the 55 Russian soldiers released in exchange for 215 Ukrainian prisoners “arrived on the territory of the Russian Federation by military aircraft and are in facilities of the department’s medical service.” They “had the opportunity to contact their loved ones,” the Russian ministry said, adding that those released soldiers “received the necessary psychological and medical assistance.”
“Bring our boys back as soon as possible”
It is important “to get our boys back as soon as possible,” said Denis Pouchiline. On Wednesday night, Kyiv announced a major exchange of prisoners with Moscow, including defense chiefs from the Azovstal Steel Works in Mariupol (southeast), a symbol of resistance to the Russian offensive. On Thursday, the Russian army again accused Kyiv of “continuing its provocations” in order to “create a risk of disaster (…) at the Zaporijia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe”.
“On Wednesday, 13 shells were fired by Ukrainian artillery at the town of Energodar (where the power plant is located) and the area adjacent to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in its statement. However, according to the same source, radiation at the site is “normal”. For several months, Russians and Ukrainians have denied each other responsibility for these strikes around the plant.
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