Zelenskiy hopes for speedier prisoner exchanges with Russia

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy holds a press conference, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, December 19, 2023. REUTERS/Alina Smutko © Thomson Reuters

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday that a recent slowdown in prisoner swaps with Moscow was due to unspecified “reasons” on the Russian side, but expressed hope that the swaps could soon resume.

The two sides held a number of prisoner swaps from the early months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and into this year. But their intensity slowed in 2023 and the last one took place in early August.

“It has indeed slowed down due to the Russian Federation’s own reasons, but these are very specific reasons. The track will open,” Zelenskiy told a press conference in Kyiv, without citing Russia’s reasons.

He added that Ukraine was currently working on the exchange of “a good enough number of our boys” and expressed hope the swap would be successful.

Last month, Ukraine’s human rights commissioner Dmytro Lubinets said Russian prisoners in Ukraine had expressed a wish to be exchanged but Moscow was not interested in taking them back. Moscow did not comment on that assertion.

In November, the Ukrainian government said it had recorded 3,574 Ukrainian military and 763 civilians taken into Russian or Moscow-backed separatists’ captivity since 2014.

That figure included those who have already returned to Ukraine, it said, but likely did not reflect all the current prisoners.

Kyiv has already brought back 2,598 people from Russian captivity during 48 swaps, according to the Ukrainian military.

Source: Reuters/Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Olena Harmash; editing by Christina Fincher and Rosalba O’Brien