Russia and Ukraine marks their 50th exchange of prisoners

Russia and Ukraine have conducted an exchange of prisoners, marking the 50th such swap since the start of the two-year-long conflict. This move follows last week's plane crash in Russia's Belgorod region, near the Ukrainian border, with Moscow accusing Kyiv of downing a military transport plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war destined for exchange. The cause of the crash remains unknown, as Ukrainian officials did not take any responsibility and called for an international investigation.

This incident escalated concerns about the impact on diplomatic channels between the nations and the fate of the captured individuals. But the process of exchanging prisoners, while slowed down at times, has continued even during the most trying moments of a war that has stretched on for nearly two years now. Yesterday's exchange resulted in over three thousand Ukrainian soldiers and civilians returning home, as per Ukrainian authorities. While Russia has not officially revealed the total figure, its officials have acknowledged the return of a minimum of 1,200 soldiers.

Ukraine President Zelenskyy announced the exchange on social media, confirming the return of 207 soldiers and civilians ranging from 20 to 61 years old.

Russia's Defence Ministry reported the return of 195 soldiers and acknowledged the role of the United Arab Emirates in facilitating the deal. The discrepancy in the number of returnees between Russia and Ukraine was not immediately explained. Ukrainian media reported that those returned were not on the list of 65 prisoners Russia claimed were killed in the crash. Both nations have not yet provided evidence regarding the crash. Russian President Putin claimed that Russian investigators determined the plane was shot down using the American Patriot air defense system. Following the crash, Ukraine intensified its offensives within Russian territory. Ukraine claimed the authority to down Russian military planes in the border region, asserting that Russia did not provide prior notification about a plane transporting prisoners in the area. However, Ukraine has refrained from acknowledging responsibility for the plane's downing.

In contrast, Russia contends that Ukraine had been informed about the flight.

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