Ukraine: a relative of Putin freed with 55 Russian soldiers after an exchange of prisoners

Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, detained in Ukraine since mid-April, was released in the largest exchange of prisoners with kyiv since the start of the Russian offensive, a pro-Russian separatist leader confirmed on Thursday. “Viktor Medvedchuk has been released,” simply told the Russian news agency Ria Novosti Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed “republic” by the separatists in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.

In the aftermath of a major prisoner exchange

This confirmation comes the day after a major exchange of prisoners between kyiv and Moscow, after which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky clarified that Viktor Medvedchuk was among those released. This former deputy, reputed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested in mid-April by the Ukrainian special services while he was on the run, suspected of treason in favor of Moscow.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the 55 Russian servicemen released in exchange for 215 Ukrainian prisoners “have arrived on the territory of the Russian Federation by military planes and are in establishments Departmental Medical Services”. They “had the opportunity to contact their relatives”, said the Russian ministry, adding that these released soldiers “received the necessary psychological and medical assistance”.

“Get our guys back as soon as possible”

The important thing was “to get our guys back as soon as possible,” said Denis Pouchiline. On Wednesday evening, kyiv announced a major prisoner exchange with Moscow, including defense chiefs from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol (southeast), a symbol of resistance to the Russian offensive. On Thursday, the Russian army also once again accused kyiv of “continuing its provocations” in order to “create a threat of disaster (…) at the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant”, the largest in Europe.

“On Wednesday, 13 shells were fired by Ukrainian artillery at the town of Energodar (where the plant is located) and the territory adjacent to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in its statement. According to the same source, however, the level of radiation at the site is “normal”. For several months, Russians and Ukrainians have been mutually rejecting responsibility for these strikes around the plant.

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