Ukrainian Mariupol warriors grinning as they are traded for freedom

Ukrainian Mariupol warriors grinning as they are traded for freedom


Smiling, smiling, and flashing peace signs for the cameras, this was the emotional moment Ukraine’s heroic Mariupol defenders were released in a surprise prisoner swap with Russia last night.

Mykhailo Dianov, one of the hero defenders of Mariupol, was dramatically freed last night in a surprise prisoner swap with Russia along with 205 other Ukrainians

Mykhailo Dianov, one of the hero defenders of Mariupol, was dramatically freed last night in a surprise prisoner swap with Russia along with 205 other Ukrainians

Their survival is contrary to all odds. They were last spotted being transported to concentration camp-like jails after enduring a Russian siege for over three months while vastly outnumbered and outgunned.

Many doubted that they would ever be seen again. Russian extremists, who consider Azov to be the worst of the worst – Nazis and war criminals – demanded their murder.

But their safety was established last night. Among them were the commander of the Azov, Denis Prokopenko, his deputy, Svyatoslav Palamar, and the commander of the Marines, Serhiy Volynsky.

Sviatoslav Palamar, one of the officers of the Azov battalion who was last seen inside the Azovstal steel plant, smiles after being released from Russian captivity late last night

Sviatoslav Palamar, one of the officers of the Azov battalion who was last seen inside the Azovstal steel plant, smiles after being released from Russian captivity late last night

Kateryna ‘Birdie’ Polishchuk, a physician whose singing within the Azovstal steelworks inspired a country, and Mykhailo Dianov, who was last seen with a fractured arm that became emblematic of the horrors within the factory, are also depicted.

Andriy Yermak, a senior assistant to President Zelensky, stated that more than one of the combatants was pregnant with twins. The First Lady, Olena Zelenska, stated that it was “the day the entire nation of Ukraine has been yearning for.”

Mykhailo Dianov, one of the heroic defenders of Mariupol, and 205 other Ukrainians were released in a surprise prisoner swap with Russia yesterday night.

Ukraine said 205 of its citizens - including 100 from the Azov battalion - were among those traded for just 56 Russians, including Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk

Ukraine said 205 of its citizens - including 100 from the Azov battalion - were among those traded for just 56 Russians, including Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk

Sviatoslav Palamar, one of the Azov battalion’s officers who was last seen inside the Azovstal steel complex, smiles after being liberated from Russian captivity late last night.

205 Ukrainians, including 100 from the Azov battalion, were exchanged for 56 Russians, including Putin loyalist Viktor Medvedchuk, according to Ukraine.

There were smiles all around as members of the Azov battalion were released, with many fearing they would never be seen again after surrendering in the city of Mariupol back in May

There were smiles all around as members of the Azov battalion were released, with many fearing they would never be seen again after surrendering in the city of Mariupol back in May

As soldiers of the Azov battalion were liberated, there were smiles all around, despite the fact that many feared they would never be seen again after surrendering in Mariupol in May.

Last night, a member of the Ukrainian armed forces embraced one of the newly-freed captives after Russia unexpectedly proposed a prisoner swap for its own armed forces.

A member of the Ukrainian armed forces embraces one of the newly-freed prisoners last night, after Russia announced a surprise swap for members of its own armed forces

A member of the Ukrainian armed forces embraces one of the newly-freed prisoners last night, after Russia announced a surprise swap for members of its own armed forces

Russia agreed to release 215 Ukrainian detainees in exchange for 56 of their own, including the five Azov commanders and 10 foreign captives, including the British Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin.

Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s right-hand man in Ukraine, is among the Russians released; according to President Zelensky, he was exchanged for 200 Ukrainians.

Zelensky stated that the price was worth paying and that Medvedchuk had already provided numerous details to spies.

But amid Russian outrage over the trade of the Azov defenders, rumors began to circulate that Medvedchuk was not the primary reason for the transaction.

Ukrainian POWs traded back to freedom last night are viewed on a bus back to home soil today

Ukrainian POWs traded back to freedom last night are viewed on a bus back to home soil today

Some, like security expert Michael Weiss, hypothesized that Russians captured during the lightning-fast counterattack from Kharkiv could have been responsible.

Speculation circulated that the Ukraine had captured a Russian general during that attack, the highest-ranking officer to be captured since the Second World War.

Kateryna 'Birdie' Polishchuk

Kateryna 'Birdie' Polishchuk

Moscow and Kiev have neither verified nor rejected these rumors, and they appear to have no immediate plans to do so.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the exchanges, calling them “no minor effort,” but he added that “far more must be done to alleviate the suffering caused by the war in Ukraine,” according to a statement from his spokesperson.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the United Nations, stated that Ban Ki-moon reaffirms the need to follow international law regarding the treatment of prisoners and would continue to encourage additional prisoner swaps.

According to Zelenskyy, many of the liberated were members of the Ukrainian Azov regiment, whom he referred to as heroes.

Kateryna ‘Birdie’ Polishchuk, a doctor whose signing inside the Azovstal factory inspired Ukraine, was also spotted smiling last night (right) after her release.

Last night, Ukrainians liberated from Russian custody in a prisoner swap posed in front of the national flag.

The commander of the Azov battalion, Denis Prokopenko (center right), was among those threatened with execution after their capture but who were released yesterday.

Five Azov leaders, commanded by Denis Prokopenko, will now be transported to Turkey, where they will be imprisoned for the duration of the conflict under the protection of President Erdogan.

In mid-May, more than 2,000 troops, including many from the Azov unit, marched out of the twisted wreckage of the Azovstal steel mill into Russian custody, bringing an end to the nearly three-month siege of the coastal city of Mariupol.

According to a post on Zelenskyy’s website, five of the liberated Azov commanders are now living in Turkey.

Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were reportedly flown to Saudi Arabia, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman assisting in discussions.

There are now five Britons, two Americans, one Swede, one Croat, and one Moroccan in Riyadh.

In an Instagram video, the couple smiles at the camera as they sit in their seats on an aircraft leaving Russia.

Aslin states, “We would like everyone to know that we are now out of the danger zone and returning to our families.”

Next to him, Pinner interjects, “By the skin of our teeth.”

Two US veterans, Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were also released as a result of the prisoner swap.

Five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine have been returned safely, ending months of uncertainty and misery for them and their families, according to UK Prime Minister Liz Truss.Ukrainians released from Russian captivity as part of a prisoner swap last night pose in front of the national flag

Ukrainians released from Russian captivity as part of a prisoner swap last night pose in front of the national flag

The prisoner exchange occurred at a perplexing time, coinciding with Vladimir Putin’s command to mobilize reserve forces in a significant escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.

Putin has threatened the West with nuclear weapons in regards to Ukraine, after announcing his intention to add seized portions of Ukraine’s territory to the Russian mainland.

A photograph of Dianov shot during the battle with a broken arm became a symbol of the atrocities his unit faced during the Russian siege.

Prokopenko (shown with Marine commander Serhiy Volynsky) had provided periodic briefings from Mariupol on the status of the siege.


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