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High-profile captives, kept in Russian prisons for years, freed in prisoner swap

by Kateryna Denisova June 28, 2024 10:16 PM 2 min read
Ten people were freed from Russian captivity on June 28, 2024. (Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War)
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As part of the latest prisoner exchange, ten people were freed from Russian captivity, including Crimean Tatar activist Nariman Dzhelial, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on June 28.

Dzhelial served as the first deputy chairman of the Mejlis, a representative body of the Crimean Tatar people. Following the occupation of Crimea, Russian forces banned the Mejlis in 2016, declaring it an "extremist organization."

Dzhelialov participated in the first Crimea Platform in Kyiv on Aug. 23, 2021. The platform aimed to build international support for the peninsula's liberation from Russian occupation. On Sept. 4, 2021, Dzhelial was arrested in Crimea and sentenced by a Russian court to 17 years in prison.

The released captives also include Olena Pekh and Valerii Matiushchenko, civilians who were held in Russian captivity since 2017-2018, as well as five other civilians who were captured in Belarus — Mykola Shvets, Natalia Zakharenko, Pavlo Kupriyenko, Liudmyla Goncharenko and Kateryna Briukhanova.

Bohdan Heleta and Ivan Levytskyi, priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, captured in November 2022 in Russian-occupied Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, were also freed from captivity.

"All of them have already been released and are back home in Ukraine," Zelensky said.

The release was part of a prisoner exchange that began on June 25, the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War reported. On June 25, 90 Ukrainian soldiers were brought back from Russian captivity.

As of June 28, 3,310 Ukrainians have been freed from Russian captivity.

Kyiv aims to conduct an all-for-all prisoner exchange, which was one of the subjects at Ukraine's peace summit in Switzerland in mid-June.

Ukraine pins hopes on international pressure to conduct all-for-all prisoner exchange
As Ukraine prepares for a major peace summit in June, President Volodymyr Zelensky sees an opportunity to free all Ukrainian prisoners from Russia before the end of the war. After the start of the full-scale invasion, Russia has seized thousands of Ukrainians, from soldiers to children, adding them…

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