Take more prisoners, Zelensky urges troops after big exchange

Russia and Ukraine carry out one of the biggest prisoner swaps so far, exchanging a total of 218 women detainees

By Agencies

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Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) look out of a bus window, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, as they arrive in Zaporizhzhia. — Reuters
Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) look out of a bus window, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, as they arrive in Zaporizhzhia. — Reuters

Published: Tue 18 Oct 2022, 1:31 AM

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday urged his troops to take more prisoners, saying this would make it easier to secure the release of soldiers being held by Russia.

Zelensky made his remarks hours after the two sides carried out one of the biggest prisoner swaps so far, exchanging a total of 218 detainees, including 108 Ukrainian women.


“I thank everyone involved in this success, and I also thank all those who replenish our exchange fund, who ensure the capture of enemies,” he said in an evening address.

“The more Russian prisoners we have, the sooner we will be able to free our heroes. Every Ukrainian soldier, every front-line commander should remember this.”


Andriy Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff, said there were 12 civilians among the freed women.

“It was the first completely female exchange,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding that 37 of the women had been captured after Russian forces took the giant Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol in May.

One of the women, medic Viktoria Obidina, said that up until the last moment the group had no idea they would be exchanged. Obidina had been with her young daughter when Mariupol fell but the two then became separated.

“I will go to see my daughter. I want to see her so bad,” she told reporters.

Separately, Ukraine’s interior ministry said some of the women had been in jail since 2019 after being detained by pro-Moscow authorities in eastern regions. Earlier, the Russian-appointed head of one of the regions said Kyiv was freeing 80 civilian sailors and 30 military personnel.

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The head of the breakaway region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, confirmed the exchange, saying that out of 110 people agreed in the swap, two people had decided to remain in Russia.

The Russian defence ministry said that 72 people returned from Ukraine were crew of civilian ships held by Ukraine since February.

It said all those returned would be flown to Moscow and provided with medical and psychological assistance.

Yermak said on the Ukraine side that some of the people exchanged were mothers and daughters who had been held together.

Images released by Yermak showed dozens of women — some wearing coats and military fatigues — disembarking from white buses.

Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov in southeastern Ukraine, withstood weeks of relentless Russian bombardment, with resistance concentrated in a dense network of underground tunnels at its Azovstal steel plant.


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