Ukraine and Russia trade nearly 200 prisoners of war in swap

This grab taken from AFP video footage shows a member of Ukraine's military looking away as a BM-21'Grad' MLRS 122mm rocket launcher fires on the outskirts of Soledar on January 11, 2023. - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said fighting is still raging in a key eastern frontline city that a Russian mercenary group earlier said it controlled, as Moscow announced a new military commander in Ukraine. The fate of Soledar in eastern Ukraine was uncertain after Russian group Wagner claimed it controlled the gateway town -- but the Kremlin cautioned against declaring victory prematurely.

A member of Ukraine’s military looking away as a rocket launcher fires on the outskirts of Soledar on 11 January 2023.
Photo: AFP

Ukraine and Russia traded almost 200 prisoners of war in a swap announced separately by both sides on Saturday.

The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said 116 Ukrainians had been returned, while Russian news agencies cited Moscow’s defence ministry as saying 63 Russian POWs had been freed.

“We managed to return 116 of our people, defenders of Mariupol, partisans from Kherson, snipers from the Bakhmut (front) and other heroes of ours,” Yermak wrote on Telegram.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address that since the war started last February, Ukraine had secured the release of 1762 men and women from Russian captivity.

Yermak also said the bodies of volunteer aid workers Andrew Bagshaw and Chris Parry had been sent back to Ukraine.

Bagshaw is a dual citizen of the UK and New Zealand and his parents said that their son’s body had been found in Ukraine.

Andrew Bagshaw in Ukraine.

Andrew Bagshaw was doing voluntary work in Ukraine and at the time of his death was involved in an evacuation mission in the besieged town of Soledar.
Photo: Supplied/Grzegorz Rybak

Speaking to the media his father, Phil Bagshaw, said that his son’s body was in the mortuary at the children’s hospital in Kyiv.

His mother Dame Sue Bagshaw said Ukrainian officials had “to go through a process where they do a proper ID and post mortem, and then the death certificate, we’ll have a copy of it”.

RNZ is contacting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in an attempt to clarify the situation with regard to Andrew Bagshaw.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the released Russian servicemen included “sensitive category” persons, whose exchange was made possible through the mediation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to agencies.

– Reuters with additional reporting from RNZ