Mariupol commander returns to Ukraine

The commander of the Azov Battalion, which resisted the Russian offensive in Mariupol, Ukraine to the last, returned to his homeland.

According to the New York Times (NYT) on the 21st, the Ukrainian side confirmed that the commander of the Azov Battalion would return to the prisoner of war exchange with Russia. “Azov Battalion, Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko and Lt. Col. Svyatoslav Palamar were among the 215 returned prisoners of war,” said Andriy Yemac, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky. The exchange is the largest since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The Azov Battalion resisted to the last in the city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, which had been under siege by Russian forces since the beginning of the war. The battalion went in and defended the Azovstal Steel Mill in the city where water and electricity were cut off, but the steel factory was captured in May last year, 83 days after a Russian attack. At the time, the Russians had transferred 2,439 people from the factory to a city controlled by Russian separatists, the Associated Press reported.

Ukraine has given up its captive heavyweight Viktor Medvechuk to return to the commander-in-chief. Medvechuk is a Ukrainian businessman and politician who is best friends with Putin. He fled early in the war and was arrested and charged with treason. Russian prisoners of war were 55, including Medvechuk. Among the freed Ukrainians are soldiers, border guards and police, as well as several pregnant Ukrainian fighters.

“President Zelensky has given a clear order to return our heroes, and our heroes are free,” said Yemac. .

The New York Times saw the exchange of prisoners of war as an opportunity to boost the morale of the Ukrainian army, which has recently pushed Russia out and is expanding in the northeast. The Ukrainian government also released a video clip of President Zelensky talking to Azov chiefs who had been released from Turkey. President Zelensky said the exchange was a “great national victory” and “we will continue to press for the release of all Ukrainians who are still imprisoned.”

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