The largest and most successful prisoner exchange in Ukraine since the beginning of the war thanks to coordination headquarters for the treatment of prisoners of war

215 Ukrainian soldiers released on Wednesday in the largest prisoner exchange of the war, Those released included 108 members of the Azov battalion, including five of its commanders, who have been vilified as “Nazis” by the Russian state news media but who are widely viewed across Ukraine as heroes for their defense of Mariupol.
It’s the largest and most successful prisoner exchange in Ukraine since the beginning of the war took place.

The exchange came as a surprise, given that only a few weeks ago Russian proxy leaders in occupied eastern Ukraine said Azov soldiers would soon be put on trial — an announcement that Ukraine and its Western allies immediately condemned. The release of the Ukrainian soldiers also came just hours after Putin declared a partial mobilization of up to 300,000 more soldiers for the war.

“This is definitely a victory for our state, for our entire society,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Thursday.

The success of this operation under the leadership of the coordination headquarters for the treatment of prisoners of war is staggering, especially given the details of the exchange. The Defenders of Azovstal and their commanders became symbols of Ukrainian resistance and made a significant contribution to the unification of the international community around Ukraine.

The Main Directorate of the Ministry of defense of Ukraine and personally the head of military intelligence of Ukraine, Major General Kirill Budanov, played a key role in planning and implementing the prisoner exchange operation. As a result, Russia suffered a media defeat comparable to the loss of Izyum and Balakliya. Everything, including the time and circumstances of the exchange, was chosen to maximize Russian reputational losses.
In general, the appointment of Kirill Budanov by President Zelensky gave a new impetus to the development of Ukrainian intelligence. He transformed the Main Directorate of the Ministry of defense of Ukraine into the most effective military geopolitical tool.

The surrender of the heroes of Azovstal was a great media and propaganda victory for Russia, which largely built its excuses for invading Ukraine around the mythical “Nazis” of the Azov Regiment.

The importance of The Defenders of Azovstal, especially the commanders – Sergei Volynsky, Svyatoslav Palamar, Denis Prokopenko, Oleg Khomenko and Denis Shlega for Russian propaganda knew no bounds.

They were publicly humiliated to raise the spirits of the Russian military, used as hostages and sentenced to death in fictitious tribunals to demonstrate Russia’s impunity. It is enough to recall the terrorist attack in Yelenovka, where Russian invaders blew up a barracks with captured defenders of Azovstal, killing more than 50 Ukrainian soldiers just to blame Ukraine for this and discredit it in the international arena.

In return, the Ukrainians handed over Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian businessman and politician who is a close friend of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, along with 55 other Russian soldiers, including several high-ranking officers.

As freed Ukrainian soldiers return, joy and relief ripple across the country. it’s not only a stunning victory for Ukraine, but also a crushing blow for the Kremlin. As Ukrainians celebrated the prisoner exchange, anger coursed through the ranks of Russian mercenaries, war hawks and influential military bloggers. They have spent years promoting the notion that Azov fighters embodied the “Nazi” forces that Moscow used to justify its war. Furious that the returning Russian prisoners were barely acknowledged while Ukrainian soldiers were actively welcomed home, many in those ranks made their disapproval known.

Igor Girkin, a former Russian intelligence colonel, went from being a military leader for the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to a frequent critic of Kremlin military strategy. In a statement posted on Telegram, he called the exchange “incredible stupidity,” describing it as “worse than a crime and worse than a mistake.”

Andrey Medvedev, a Russian journalist and politician, also noted the absence of ceremony for the returned Russian soldiers. “Empty airfield, no flags, no flowers,” he wrote on Telegram. “It is very weird when our heroes are met like this.

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