Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities announced they had secured the release of 215 prisoners of war, including the commanders of the Azov Battalion defenders of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol. They entered captivity, based on a false promise by the Russian Army of rapid exchange when Mariupol finally surrendered (Mariupol Defenders Reject Russian Demand for Surrender Setting up the Largest Siege of a City Since WWII and Mariupol Surrenders to the Russian Army After Epic 82-Day Siege). In return, Ukraine released 55 Russians. The description of them is a little cagey, indicating that some of the FSB intelligence assets responsible for the betrayal of Ukrainian defenses during the first days of the war were included. The group also included senior Russian officers and pilots. A surprise addition was Viktor Medvedchuk. Medvedchuk is a close friend of Putin; Putin is the godfather of his youngest daughter. He was involved in creating the Potemkin “People’s Republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk. Multiple sources claim that Medvedchuk was tabbed to lead the puppet, Russian-installed government that was to have replaced Zelensky’s administration. Instead, he was arrested by the Ukrainian secret service, the SBU, after he fled house arrest.
Captured Russophile and Putin BFF Viktor Medvedchuk asks to be exchanged for Ukrainian prisoners. pic.twitter.com/0QGWTZvUJQ
— Dr. Ian Garner (@irgarner) April 18, 2022
In return, Ukraine handed over more than 50 Russian troops, including pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, to the Russian side. pic.twitter.com/MOsbizRZP9
— Clash Report (@clashreport) September 21, 2022
The leaders of the Azov Battalion will be interned in Turkey until the cessation of hostilities.
The release of a large number of Azov prisoners is surprising as Putin and his lackeys in the West have reviled an effective Ukrainian nationalist fighting unit as “Nazis.” As late as the eve of the Ukrainian offensive, Russian collaborators were busily converting the Philharmonic Hall in Mariupol into a courtroom for the public trial of the Azovstal steel works defenders.
In occupied #Mariupol, Rashists are preparing to lynch Ukrainian prisoners of war.
The invaders are going to use the Philharmonic Hall as a “court” building, and the prisoners will be kept in medieval cages. pic.twitter.com/9ja3NR2Mwz
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) August 12, 2022
😡 Russians prepare for a “tribunal” against Ukrainian defenders. To do this, they mount cages on the stage of Mariupol Chamber Philharmonic and hold a show trial over the Ukrainian war prisoners – the Mariupol City Council. pic.twitter.com/n308oNxY4E
— Toronto Television / Телебачення Торонто (@tvtoront) August 8, 2022
In addition, ten foreign fighters were released at about the same time to the custody of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. There were five Brits, two Americans, one Moroccan, one Swede, and one Croat. Three of these men had been sentenced to death by a kangaroo court in Luhansk. They are being repatriated now.
…Ilya Samoilenko, photographer Dmytro Kozatskyi, Moroccan Saadoub Brahim, Britons Sean Pinner and Aiden Aslin, all 3 previously sentenced to death, Americans Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, 215 total now free from Russian captivity!#Azovstaldefenders #Mariupol #SlavaUkraini 🇺🇦💙💛 pic.twitter.com/rTBe3rsOKv
— Ukraine Aid Operations 🇺🇦 (@UkraineAidOps) September 22, 2022
What’s happening here?
On the same day that Vladimir Putin delivered a speech that seemed detached from objective reality and threatened to nuke everybody and their brother, 215 Ukrainian prisoners were released, nearly simultaneously, in two different locations. They weren’t just any prisoners. They were foreign volunteers and battle-hardened defenders of Azovstal, including some of their most well-known, one might say notorious, commanders. Three of the foreign volunteers were under sentence of death. In return, Putin got 55 prisoners, including one of his cronies, who Putin’s nationalist supporters loathe.
There is obviously some linkage between the two events. There is probably some linkage between this swap and events yet to come. I’m just not bright enough to connect the dots yet.