Russian parliamentarian hints at possible exchange of Azovstal PoWs for detained Putin ally


Denys Karlovskyi – Saturday, 21 May 2022, 19:52

Leonid Slutsky, a member of the Russian delegation in the negotiations with Ukraine and a member of the Russian parliament, said that the Russian government will “consider” the possibility of exchanging the imprisoned Ukrainian soldiers who were defending Mariupol for Viktor Medvedchuk, the detained Ukrainian politician considered to be Vladimir Putin’s ally.

Source: Interfaxa Russian news agency, citing Leonid Slutsk

Quote from Slutsky: “We will consider the possibility of exchanging the ‘Azovites’ for Medvedchuk. We are not the only ones, but the LDPR [Liberal Democratic Party of Russia of which Slutsky is a member – ed.] and the relevant authorities in Moscow. “

Details: Slutsky made the announcement during a so-called press-conference in the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk.

The Russian Ministry of Defense insists that 2,439 Ukrainian soldiers were able to leave the Azovstal steelworks. However, the Ukrainian government has not confirmed the exact numbers and international experts say that Russia might be deliberately overstating the number of prisoners taken.

Background:

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said that the Ukrainian government and international humanitarian organizations had agreed a plan to return Ukrainian defenders to Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange. Evacuation is taking place with support from Ukraine’s Western partners. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross said that they are registering all Ukrainian soldiers who are being evacuated from Azovstal.

  • On 20 May, Sergey Shoigu, the Russian Minister of Defense, told President Vladimir Putin of Russia that all Ukrainian soldiers had left the Azovstal plant. Earlier, American reporters shared a video which shows Ukrainian soldiers leaving Azovstal and boarding evacuation buses.

  • Reuters reported that 7 buses took those Mariupol defenders who were not wounded from Azovstal to a Russian camp in Olenivka in Donetsk Oblast; Olenivka is occupied by the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. The wounded Azovstal defenders have been taken to Novoazovsk, a border town on the south-eastern tip of Ukraine between Mariupol and the Russian city of Taganrog.

  • On April 18, Medvedchuk – already detained by Ukrainian forces – recorded a video address to Zelenskyy and Putin in which he offered to be exchanged for the Ukrainian soldiers defending Azovstal. Earlier, Medvedchuk’s wife, Oksana Marchenko, whose daughter is Putin’s goddaughter, personally addressed the Russian president. The Kremlin ignored those appeals.

  • The Ukrainian Security Service detained Medvedchuk on 12 April. Later on, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service, Ivan Bakanov, shared the details of the special operation that was conducted to detain the runaway. He said that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation first tried to take Medvedchuk to the Transnistria region of Moldova, and then to Moscow. The Ukrainian Security Service detained Medvedchuk on the way to Moscow, just as he was leaving Kyiv Oblast.



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