Ukraine and Russia participate in first prisoners of war exchange

Ukraine and Russia on Thursday exchanged prisoners of war for the first time in the conflict, exactly one month after the fighting began.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced Thursday that the swap occurred after it was ordered by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the Ukrainian Volunteer Journalists Initiative.

Iryna Vereshchuk, deputy prime minister and minister for reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, said 10 Ukrainian soldiers were released and 10 Russian soldiers were given back to their country.

The minister also said 11 Russian civilian sailors were swapped for 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors.

The Russian civilian sailors were rescued by Ukraine when their vessel flooded, while the Ukrainian civilian sailors were taken by Russia after they were found in a rescue vessel heading to Snake Island to retrieve troops.

Russia will also give back the rescue ship to Ukraine, which will send it to a port in Turkey, according to the agency.

The exchange comes as Ukraine and Russia have both reportedly suffered thousands of casualties amid Moscow’s ongoing invasion.

NATO estimated this week that up to 15,000 Russian troops have been killed, with as many as 40,000 dead, wounded, taken prisoner or missing. Russia has offered much lower casualty numbers, however, raising its official number of military losses in Ukraine to 1,400 on Friday.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that thousands of his people have died in the conflict, including at least 121 children. He previously said on March 12 that about 1,300 Ukrainian troops had been killed in action.

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