Ukraine and Russia carried out their largest prisoner exchange since the start of the conflict on Feb. 24, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday in a statement on Telegram.
The agency said 144 Ukrainians aged 19 and 65 years returned home as a result of the exchange.
According to the statement, under the swap, Russia released 59 soldiers of the National Guard of Ukraine, including 43 from the Azov regiment which fought for Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant.
Most of the released Ukrainians have severe injuries, it said.
Ukraine and Russia conducted their first prisoner exchange on March 24.
There was no comment from Russia about a prisoner swap.
AlJazeera quoted the head of the pro-Russia self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine Denis Pushilin said it had also secured the release of 144 soldiers, including its fighters and those of the Russian army.
“We handed over to Kyiv the same number of prisoners from Ukrainian armed units, most of whom were wounded,” he said.
Aljazeera report said that hundreds more Ukrainians are still thought to be held by Russia and its pro-Moscow separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine, but their precise whereabouts are not known.
“In particular, Kyiv has worried about the fate of hundreds of fighters from the Azov regiment that played a prominent role in the defence of Mariupol and its Azovstal steelworks before being encircled and eventually laying down their arms to Russian forces,” the report reads.