Kyiv says 30 people returned to Ukraine in Russia prisoner swap

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Ukraine said Thursday that 30 prisoners of war were being returned to the country as part of the most recent exchange of captives with Russia, following an order from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Five officers and 17 servicemen were exchanged. Also eight civilians, including one woman, were released. In total, 30 of our citizens are going home today,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement on social media.

Earlier, the defense ministry announced that two military pilots captured by Moscow’s forces last month and held in Russia had been released, without giving details of their return.

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Its statement identified the men as Ivan Pepelyashko and Oleksiy Chyzh and said they had been captured in early March in a village in Ukraine’s northern Chernigiv region.

It was not immediately clear whether the pilots were part of the exchange announced by Vereshchuk.

The statement said the pilots were held in several locations before being brought to the Kursk region of southern Russia, where they were held with eight other Ukrainian military personnel.

The status of the other eight captives was not immediately clear.

The statement cited Chyzh as saying they were subjected to hostile interrogations and denied medical treatment while in captivity.

“We were forced to record propaganda videos. If we refused, they threatened to stop bandaging our comrades’ wounds,” the statement quoted him as saying.

The defense ministry statement said the men met with minister Kirill Budanov on their return to Ukraine.

Vereshchuk said Thursday announcing the exchange that Ukraine and Russia have conducted four prisoner swaps since Moscow’s forces began their invasion of their pro-democratic neighbor in late February.

Zelenskyy this week offered to swap pro-Kremlin tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk, who was arrested by Kyiv after escaping house arrest, for Ukrainians captured by Russia.

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