Dozens of soldiers freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said on Saturday.

Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed.

He said the released POWs include troops who fought to defend Mariupol during Moscow’s monthslong siege that reduced the southern port city to ruins, as well as guerrilla fighters from the Kherson region and snipers captured during the ongoing fierce battles for the eastern city of Bakhmut.

'Special category' captives

Russian defence officials, meanwhile, announced that 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine following the swap, including some “special category” prisoners whose release was secured following mediation by the United Arab Emirates.

But a statement issued Saturday by the Russian Defence Ministry did not provide details about these “special category” captives.

At least three civilians have been killed in Ukraine over the past 24 hours as Russian forces struck nine regions in the country’s south, north and east, according to reports on Ukrainian TV stations by regional Ukrianian-appointed governors on Saturday morning.

Two people were killed and 14 others wounded in the eastern Donetsk region by Russian shelling and missile strikes, local Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram update on Saturday morning.

The casualties included a man who was killed after Russian missiles slammed into the town of Toretsk in the Donetsk region. Kyrylenko said 34 houses, two kindergartens, an outpatient clinic, a library, a cultural centre and other buildings were damaged in the strike.

Seven teenagers got shrapnel wounds after an anti-personnel mine exploded late on Friday in the northeastern city of Izium, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram. He said they were all hospitalised but were not in critical condition.

Elsewhere, regional Ukrainian officials reported overnight shelling by Russia on border settlements in the northern Sumy region, as well as the town of Marhanets, which neighbours the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Kyiv has long accused Moscow of using the plant, which Russian forces seized early in the war, as a base for launching attacks on Ukrainian-held territory across the Dnieper river.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa and surrounding areas were plunged into darkness once again following a large-scale network failure, the country’s grid operator reported.

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