The Ukrainian authorities have exchanged the pro-Russian politician close to the Kremlin Viktor Medvechuc, detained in Ukraine for months, for more than 200 prisoners Ukrainians —including those belonging to the Azov Battalion, whom they consider “heroes”—, and other nationalities who were in the hands of the Russians.
The exchange of prisoners took place in the last hours of this Wednesday, after months of negotiations between the two countries, since last April Medvedchuk himself, friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and then detained by the kyiv authorities, asked through a video that he be exchanged for Ukrainian civilians and soldiers who were resisting in Mariupol.
During the exchange carried out this Wednesday, Ukraine received 215 people, including 124 officers, that were in the hands of the Russians, according to what Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President, informed the president himself, Volodímir Zelenski, during a telephone call with those released.
Among the released Ukrainian prisoners are 108 members of the Azov Battalion, who resisted in Mariupol, including its commander, Denys Prokopenko, Redis, and others considered Ukrainian heroes.
Foreigners sent to Saudi Arabia
Others ten prisoners of various nationalities held by the Russians have been released and sent this Wednesday to Saudi Arabia, accompanied by the head of the State Property Fund, Rustem Umerov.
The released foreigners are five citizens of the United Kingdom, two from the United States, one from Morocco, one from Sweden and one from Croatia.
Human rights defenders Maryana Mamonova, Yana Shumovetska and Anastasiya Chernenka, who were captured while pregnant according to the Ukrainian authorities.
According to information provided by the Ukrainian presidential website, the acting head of the Ukrainian Security Service, Vasyl Maliuk; the deputy head of the General Intelligence Directorate, Dmytro Usov, and the Human Rights Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada, Dmytro Lubinets, they met with the 200 liberated Ukrainians.
“Today we directly exchanged 200 citizens of Ukraine for Mr. Medvedchuk. I would like to point out that Medvedchuk is not just a close friend of Putin, but a well-documented state traitor. His guilt is fully registered in the relevant materials,” said Vasyl Maliuk.
Maliuk noted that during the investigative work in the cases related to Viktor Medvedchuk “several subversive networks were neutralized, state traitors were arrested and a large amount of information was obtained, which is used in counterintelligence activities”.
In addition, five more citizens were released in exchange for 55 Russian prisoners, according to information from Ukraine.
Almost all of those released are already on Ukrainian territory, except for the five commanders of the Azov Battalion, who, according to agreements previously reached with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are in Turkey “under his personal guarantees of protection.
Zelensky: “One fan for 200 warriors…”
For his part, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, said this Wednesday night about the prisoner exchange that “we exchanged a fanatic from Russia for 200 warriors… It’s a good result.” “At first they offered to return 50 of our people in exchange for one of those who were in the detention center of the Ukrainian Security Service. We talked. We insisted. The number increased from 50 to 200. They are already in Ukraine,” he explained. the president in his usual nightly speech.
In the opinion of the Ukrainian president, “it is not a pity to give Medvedchuk in exchange for true warriors.” “He went through all the investigative steps required by law,” he added. “Ukraine received from him everything necessary to establish the truth within the framework of criminal proceedings.”
Zelensky revealed that the prisoner exchange operation carried out this Wednesday “was prepared for a long time” and added that even more than 200 Ukrainians would be rescued because “among the liberated Ukrainian women there are those who are preparing to be mothers”.
Putin’s influential friend
The pro-Russian politician and oligarch Victor Medvedchuk, arrested on April 12 by the Ukrainian security forces, has been considered for 20 years the Kremlin’s main agent of influence in Ukrainian politics, especially in the Donbas region.
“I have known Putin since 2002, when I was head of the presidential administration. I am proud of our friendly relationship.” He told Efe in an interview in 2019.
Medvedchuk, 67, is for many Ukrainians the “traitor” par excellence due to his close ties with Russia, to which must be added that in recent years he was one of the main enemies of President Zelensky.