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La Russia and Ukraine exchange around 200 prisoners | War in Ukraine

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In this photo taken from a video released by the Russian Investigative Committee on Thursday, January 25, 2024, the wreckage of the Il-76 is seen near Yablonovo, Belgorod region, Russia, Thursday, January 25 2024.

Agence France-Presse

Russia and Ukraine announced on Wednesday that they had exchanged around 200 prisoners of war from each side, a week later the crash of a Russian military plane that Moscow said was carrying captive Ukrainian soldiers and had been shot down by Kiev.

Since then, Ukrainian authorities and Westerners have been trying to obtain evidence of the Russian allegations, while Moscow has only published a few images of the alleged crash site and limits itself to emphasizing that ;an investigation is underway.

On Wednesday, despite persistent questions surrounding the crash of the Il-76 military plane, Moscow and Kiev announced almost at the same time one of the largest prisoner exchanges in two years of war .

The Russian Defense Ministry said 195 Russian soldiers were exchanged for the same number of Ukrainian servicemen.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the return of 207 of his fellow citizens who were detained by the Russians.

Ours are at home, he rejoiced on social networks, promising to bring home all prisoners, combatants or civilians.

This is the fiftieth exchange of this type, said Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Loubinets. According to him, a total of 3,035 Ukrainians have already been able to return home.

On Friday, Kiev also announced that it had repatriated the bodies of 77 deceased Ukrainian soldiers, a long-planned procedure.

Last week, a Russian military plane crashed near the Ukrainian border in murky circumstances, killing all on board. Since then, many questions remain unanswered.

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The Russian Investigative Committee released a video showing the crash site.

Russia assures that the Ukrainian army shot down the plane carrying 74 people, including, according to Moscow, 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were going to be exchanged.

The Russian Investigative Committee, responsible for the investigations, only published a few images showing a snow-covered field with some debris, and one or two blurred bodies, without AFP being able to confirm the location or verify the date of the filming. of these videos.

Ukraine has not directly commented on its potential involvement in the incident, but has expressed doubts about the presence of his soldiers on board.

The country, however, confirmed that an exchange of prisoners was planned on the day of the crash, and that it ultimately did not take place.

More than 8,000 Ukrainians, including more than 1,600 civilians, are still detained by the Russians, according to Kiev.

The prisoner exchange announced Wednesday comes as fighting continues. Russia carried out a new attack overnight with 20 Shahed explosive drones and three ballistic missiles.

Ukraine, which claimed to have shot down a dozen devices, called on its Western allies to strengthen its defensive systems to counter Moscow's attacks.

Few details of the damage were released, but police in the eastern Kharkiv region said a supermarket and residential houses were damaged.

In occupied territory, the mayor installed by Moscow in the town of Gorlivka, in the Donetsk region, announced that two civilians had been killed and another injured in a Ukrainian drone attack.

On the diplomatic front, while the latest American envelope of support for Kiev is still blocked in Congress, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised on Wednesday that he wanted everything to do to increase the European Union's military aid to Ukraine, on the eve of a crucial summit in Brussels on aid to Kiev.

Faced with Viktor Orban's opposition to releasing new aid of 50 billion euros, European diplomats also indicated that Brussels had reached out to Hungarian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin's closest ally among the Twenty-Seven.

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