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On Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky returned from Turkey five former leaders of Ukraine’s military in Mariupol, a highly symbolic success that Russia claimed breached a prisoner swap arrangement negotiated last year.
Russia quickly condemned the release. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Ankara had committed to retain the men in Turkey under the swap deal, but that Moscow had not been told.
President Zelensky also paid a visit to Snake Island, a Black Sea island taken by Russian forces on the day of the invasion and later abandoned.
The five commanders were lauded in Ukraine for spearheading a valiant three-month defence of Mariupol from the Azovstal steel plant last year, the largest city Russia has conquered.
“Volodymyr Zelensky, who had a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday, declared, “We are coming back from Turkey and bringing our heroes home.
In the early months of the conflict, Russian soldiers destroyed Mariupol, killing thousands of civilians. Under the Azovstal facility, Ukrainian fighters resisted until May of last year, when Kiev ordered them to give up.
Some of them were released in September as part of a prisoner swap arranged by Ankara, with the condition that the leaders remain in Turkey until the end of the war.
“No one informed us about this,” Mr. Peskov told Russia’s RIA news agency. According to the accords, these ringleaders were to remain in Turkey until the fighting ended.”
Mr Peskov stated that the publication was the result of intense pressure from Turkey’s NATO allies ahead of the military alliance’s summit next week, at which Ukraine wants to receive a favourable signal about its future membership.
In his speech, President Zelensky gave no justification for why the officers were permitted to go home today. An inquiry for comment was not answered by the Turkish Directorate of Communications.
Thank you, Turkish President
President Zelensky later expressed his gratitude to Erdogan for helping to secure the men’s release during a ceremony next to them in the western city of Lviv, and he pledged to return all prisoners who were still in custody.
He stated that prior to the onset of war, “many people around the world still did not understand who we are, who you are, what to expect from us, and who our heroes are.” Everyone understands now.”
Many Ukrainians welcomed the men’s homecoming.
“Finally! The best news ever. Congratulations to our brothers!” Major Maksym Zhorin, who is fighting in eastern Ukraine, stated on the Telegram messaging service.
One of the five commanders, Denys Prokopenko, informed the crowd that his men “will have our word to say in the wars.The most important development is that Ukraine has seized the strategic lead and is making progress.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken honoured the 500th day by identifying Russia as “the sole obstacle to a just and lasting peace” and promised to support Kiev “for as long as it takes.”
Russia “must realise that it is in an impasse and must immediately cease its illegal war of aggression,” according to the foreign ministry of France, by the end of the time period.
The most recent US commitment of cooperation included plans to supply widely prohibited cluster bombs. Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov vowed that the munitions will not be utilised in Russia.
Ukrainian forces “continued offensive operations” in two southeast sectors, according to the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces on Saturday.
Officials said Ukrainian forces have also reclaimed territory near the damaged eastern city of Bakhmut, which was overrun by Russian forces in May following months of warfare.