How Russia Met Its Freed Prisoners
On September 7, 2019, Ukraine and Russia held an exchange of prisoners. Out of 35 prisoners handed over by Ukraine, 13 were Ukrainian citizens accused of high treason, defection, and terrorism, the rest were Russian nationals. We bring you more about those who were included in the list on the Russian side
The plane with prisoners, who were returned to Russia, landed at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow. One by one, they stepped out, carrying bags. 11 of them were pardoned, 19 released from custody due to a changed measure of restraint, two were already free, and one had been handed over to Russia earlier. The only people greeting them were representatives of Russian propaganda TV channels.
“All the familiar faces! I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I could probably talk a lot and for a long time, but not now. It’s hard to talk,” Vyshynsky said.
Among them is Kirill Vyshinsky, the head of the Ukrainian office of Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency. At the end of August, the Kyiv court of appeals changed his measure of restraint.
He was released from custody on personal recognizance. On September 16th, the treason suspect is required to appear in court in Kyiv.
“I’ve never been so nervous over the past week,” Vyshynsky said.
Among Ukrainian citizens who were handed over to Russia was Volodymyr Tsemakh, a key witness in the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. He was also released earlier on personal recognizance.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky assured the journalists in Boryspil that the suspect had been questioned.
“I will not name the European leaders with whom we discussed the time, which is necessary for all the investigative actions. We did all of this. All that we were asked to do. It was difficult. I was afraid that the exchange would be disrupted because of it,” Zelensky said.
Among those whom Ukraine handed over 12 are Russians, one person has dual citizenship, others have Ukrainian passports. The prisoners include Russian militants, soldiers, and intelligence officers who were detained in Ukraine for espionage. And one participant of the clashes between Euromaidan protesters and pro-Russian demonstrators, which took place in Odesa on May 2nd, 2014.
“Behind this day is an enormous three-year work of a large number of people. I hope that it’s the beginning of a great, large-scale humanitarian mission,” the Russian ombudswoman wrote on Instagram.
On the plane were also Maksym Odintsov and Oleksandr Baranov, former Ukrainian soldiers who defected to the Russian side in 2014.
Oleksandr Sattarov, a former member of the Berkut special police force, which attacked protesters during the Euromaidan revolution, and a participant of Russian aggression in Crimea.
“It’s a very important step. It’s necessary to support this determination, to solve problems as much as possible,” the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, wrote on Facebook.
Moscow also demanded the release of Ruslan Gadzhiev, a Russian tank operator who took part in the battle of Debaltseve. However, he was removed from the exchange list.
He may be handed over during the next swap. 110 illegally detained Ukrainians remain in Russian prisons and occupied Crimea.