The biggest exchange since the Kremlin’s assault on February 24 saw the transfer of 144 Ukrainian commanders and troops for Russian prisoners, according to Ukrainian intelligence on Wednesday.
95 of the soldiers were those who had guarded the Azovstal steel mills in Mariupol, a town in the south.
The 3,500 Ukrainian servicemen who gave themselves up in Azovstal and other areas close to Mariupol are greatly relieved, but many of their relatives are still in the dark about their whereabouts.
There is rising resentment that Kyiv officials aren’t doing more to get them back.
Few convicts have communicated via the phone. The families’ interactions with Ukrainian officials are mostly restricted to public assurances that they are making efforts to return the POWs.
Russian officials are keeping quiet, which fuels fears that detainees will face trial.
Before giving up on May 20, Serhiy Volynskyi served as the symbol of the Ukrainian forces that fought off Russian strikes on the Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol for months.
The Russian military committed "a clear war crime" when its forces bombed a packed drama theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in March, Amnesty International says. https://t.co/e4FEfOVC3o
— ABC News (@ABC) June 30, 2022
According to TASS, he is currently being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo jail, where he and other inmates are the subjects of an investigation by Russian authorities.
Volynskyi pleaded with international leaders, the Vatican, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and even Tesla CEO Elon Musk to spare the Ukrainian army before the capitulation.
Serhiy was a completely private person, prior to arriving at Azovstal, according to his sister Natalia Kharko.
“I believe the soldiers and other steel factory personnel realized they lacked the means to attempt a solution. They, therefore, made every effort to preserve the soldiers’ lives and well-being.”
Kharko found out via Russian media about her friend’s alleged move to Moscow. She stated, “I still don’t have any [official] information concerning his whereabouts.”
Bohdan’s spouse, Natalia Zarytska, last spoke with her partner on May 17. Bohdan was an Azov Regiment member, whose last identity she preferred not to be revealed for security purposes.
“The [International Committee of the Red Cross] called me back from Geneva four days after he left Azovstal. I learned they recorded his leaving from the factory,” she claimed.
“None of these concerns were addressed to me, including where he was transported, how he is being held, and whether ICRC personnel are present.”
She hasn’t received any official information regarding her spouse from Russia or Ukraine since that time.
Amnesty's Crisis Response team interviewed numerous survivors and collected digital evidence, concluding that the attack was almost certainly carried out by Russian fighter aircraft, which dropped two 500 kg bombs that struck close to each other and detonated simultaneously.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) June 30, 2022
The country’s military intel agency is working with Moscow, according to the Ukrainian government, to get the prisoners returned. The organization declined to comment on the matter.
Although Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy maintains a low profile about the POWs. It’s an extremely challenging problem. Many specifics are off-limits, he added last week.
He continued by saying in its negotiations with Moscow, Kyiv is relying on support from other countries and international organizations.
“We strive to involve as many of our allies in this process as we can, including the Red Cross, the United Nations, and a number of nations that have some sway over the aggressor country.”