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Ukraine, Russia exchange female prisoners

October 18, 2022

Over 200 prisoners were involved in what Ukraine said was the first swap to consist of all women. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on his troops to take more Russian prisoners.

Released female Ukrainian prisoners of war pose in a field in front of a bus at an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine
More than 5,000 Ukrainian women are currently fighting on the front lines against invading Russian troopsImage: Andriy Yermak/Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office/REUTERS

Ukraine and Russia exchanged a total of 218 prisoners on Monday.

Ukrainian authorities said Kyiv had swapped 108 prisoners in the first "all-female" exchange.

What Ukraine and Russia said about the prisoner swap

Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president's staff, said 37 of the women had been captured after Russian forces took the Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol in May.

"Another large-scale exchange of prisoners of war was carried out today ... we freed 108 women from captivity. It was the first all-female exchange," Yermak posted on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that "96 [of the swapped prisoners] are servicewomen, including 37 evacuees from Azovstal, and 12 are civilians."

He thanked "all involved for this success," and urged Ukrainian troops to take more prisoners.

"The more Russian prisoners we have, the sooner we will be able to free our heroes," Zelenskyy said. "Every Ukrainian soldier, every frontline commander should remember this."

Denis Pushilin, the Russia-backed leader of the illegally annexed Donetsk region, said earlier Monday that "mostly women" would be handed over.

"The exchange is carried out today by the formula 110 for 110," he said on his Telegram channel.

According to Pushilin, 80 Russians, whom he said were "civilian sailors," and 30 military personnel were freed.

Women fighting for Ukraine

According to Lieutenant General Serhiy Naev of the Armed Forces High Command, Ukraine has roughly 40,000 women in its ranks, with more than 5,000 fighting on the frontlines in the country's war against Russian invaders.

Naev told Ukrainian media that the army has 8,000 female officers and that women serve as snipers, as well as commanding artillery, drone and vehicle units.

The latest exchange comes after a similar swap of dozens of soldiers last week.

Ukrainian war prisoners in Russia

js/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)