Russia, Ukraine each return 90 prisoners of war

A still image from a video shows what it said to be captured Russian service personnel in a bus following the latest exchange of prisoners of war at an unknown location in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict

(Reuters) -Russia and Ukraine each handed back 90 prisoners of war on Tuesday in the latest of several periodic swaps in their 28-month-old conflict, with the United Arab Emirates overseeing the exchange as an intermediary.

The last exchange took place on May 31, when each side handed over 75 prisoners of war, also with the UAE acting as a go-between. That was the first exchange in nearly four months.

Russia said prisoners brought home on Tuesday had faced mortal danger in captivity.

Ukraine said returnees had included soldiers who had defended the Azovstal steel mill in a three-month siege in 2022 and others taken prisoner when Russian forces briefly seized the defunct Chornobyl nuclear power station.

The UAE said its action as a go-between had been made possible by maintaining good contacts with both sides.

The Russian Defence Ministry, in a posting on the Telegram messaging app, said: "As a result of negotiations, 90 Russian prisoners of war who risked death in captivity are being returned from areas under Kyiv's control."

It said the Russian prisoners were able to return home

"with the United Arab Emirates participating as an intermediary in a humanitarian capacity".

The freed Russian prisoners were being flown to Moscow, where they would undergo medical checks, the ministry said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said most of the freed servicemen were privates and sergeants, and the swap was another step in the process of bringing all detainees home.

"We will return all others in the same way," he said in his nightly video address. "We are seeking the truth about everyone -- where a person is, in what condition, what is needed for their return."

He thanked the UAE for facilitating the exchange and pledged to press on with efforts to bring home those still being held.

Ukraine's parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, said those returning from captivity would undergo medical checks and receive help in resuming their lives.

Video posted on the president's Telegram channel showed men stepping off a bus to be greeted and handed blue and yellow national flags to drape over their shoulders.

The UAE Foreign Ministry, in a statement quoted by the state news agency WAM, said mediation had proved successful because it had leveraged "its distinct ties and partnership with both sides, including as a reliable mediator among both parties".

Since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine, the UAE has maintained neutral rhetoric on the conflict and continued mediating between the two sides to exchange prisoners.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and by Jaidaa Taha and Muhammad Al Gebaly in Cairo; Editing by Sandra Maler)