Ukraine and Russia make first prisoner swap after plane crash

  • By Jaroslav Lukiv
  • BBC News

image source, @V_Zelenskiy_official

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A Ukrainian soldier was seen kissing the country's national flag after the exchange of information

Russia and Ukraine say they have exchanged captured soldiers – what Moscow said was the first such exchange since the downing of a Russian plane that carried 65 prisoners of war (PoWs).

Russia's military says 195 soldiers from each side were withdrawn on Wednesday.

207 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have been repatriated, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Kyiv has questioned Moscow's claim that Ukrainian fighters were on board the plane shot down by Ukraine last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that an investigation had confirmed that an Il-76 military transport plane was shot down by a US-patriotic unit in the western Belgorod region.

The Russian military previously said 65 Ukrainian soldiers were on the plane for a prisoner exchange to the region.

Six Russian crew members and three officers escorting the fighters were on board and there were no survivors, the military said.

Mr Putin and the Defense Ministry have not provided any evidence to back up their claims.

Ukraine says it is investigating.

In a brief statement on Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said the latest prisoner exchange had been completed after talks with Kiev.

“The released soldiers will be flown to Moscow by military transport aircraft… for treatment and rehabilitation.

“All those released are being provided with the necessary medical and psychological assistance,” the statement said, adding that the UAE was involved in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, President Zelensky wrote in a post on social media: “Our people have returned. 207 of them. We are sending them home no matter what.

“We remember every Ukrainian in prison. Both combatants and civilians. We must bring them all back,” he said, thanking Ukraine's top security officials for making the recent exchange possible.

In a video captured by Ukrainian authorities, the freed men chant “Glory to Ukraine!” Shows falling off buses with shouts of

The men wear Russian prison uniforms – their heads are closely shaved – and many look very thin after months, or in some cases up to two years, of captivity. Some are crying – they are talking to relatives on the phone.

This is the 50th PoW exchange since President Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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This video, which shows the moment a Russian plane crashed in the Belgorod region, has been verified by the BBC

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