Marmorhalin (Nitavisen): Andriy Jermak is the head of Volodymyr Zelensky’s presidential office, and follows the president like a shadow around the world. One of his tasks is to work on the exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine.
In addition to the deaths of tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, many were also captured. When the port city of Mariupol fell to the Russians last May, it was over 2500 Ukrainian Soldiers captured by Russian forces.
This happened after Russian forces surrounded and bombed the city. The soldiers held out for several months, but eventually President Zelensky himself ordered them to lay down their weapons and surrender to the Russian army.
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Working around the clock with prisoner exchanges
In addition to the Mariupol prisoners, prisoners of war are constantly attacked and taken from both sides. Russian prisoners of war captured by Ukraine are transferred to prisons that follow international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war. International organizations and the press are allowed access to prisons.
Since the full-scale invasion on February 22, 2022, there has been a regular exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, but after late summer of this year, this stopped completely.
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– We are working on this issue, and we have a separate center working on this issue around the clock, Andrei Jermak told Netavisen.
He says it was very difficult to cooperate with Russia to exchange prisoners.
– First, they do not provide us with any information. They also do not allow the International Red Cross to visit our captured soldiers, says Jermak.
Ukrainian prisoners of war are tortured
It is well-documented that captured Ukrainian soldiers are tortured. One of the most famous examples of this is Briton Aiden Asselin. He moved to Ukraine and enlisted as a soldier in the Ukrainian army before the full invasion in 2022. He was one of the defenders of Mariupol who were eventually forced to surrender.
Acelin was portrayed as a mercenary, and was sentenced to death in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. In captivity, he was beaten, stabbed, and forced to sing the Russian national anthem on video. Last year, he and two other fellow foreign soldiers were released in a prisoner exchange with Russia.
Read more: Briton captured after fighting at Mariupol steelworks: – I went through hell
Photographs of released Ukrainian soldiers show that many of them were severely emaciated upon their release. It is also documented that Russia executes Ukrainian soldiers who surrender.
Andriy Jermak says that the Ukrainian authorities continue to work to free the soldiers.
One of our biggest problems is estranged children. A few days ago we held the first meeting of an international coalition, made up of about 60 countries, working to recover our children. “We are continuing to work on this, and we have recently recovered eight children, but unfortunately we are talking about thousands of children who are still detained in Russia and in the occupied territories,” Germak tells Netavisin.
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We are very concerned, and this is one of the topics we always raise in meetings. “We will continue to work on this, and President Zelensky has tasked us with retrieving all Ukrainian children and residents, before the rush,” says Jermak.
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