Snake Island sailors freed in prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine: NPR


Sailors trying to rescue Ukrainian troops from Snake Island were instead captured along with the soldiers – and now they have been released in a prisoner swap, Ukraine announced on Thursday.

State Border Guard Service of Ukraine


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State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

Snake Island sailors freed in prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine: NPR

Sailors trying to rescue Ukrainian troops from Snake Island were instead captured along with the soldiers – and now they have been released in a prisoner swap, Ukraine announced on Thursday.

State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

Russia and Ukraine exchanged 10 prisoners of war each on Thursday in what Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk called the first full-fledged exchange in the month-old conflict.

The swap also freed 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors who were captured as their ship attempted to drive Ukrainian troops away from Snake Island in late February.

Ukraine released 11 Russian civilian sailors as part of the deal, Vereshchuk said in announcing the transfer. The civilians had been rescued from a sinking ship near Odessa, she said.

The Russian takeover of Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, was much discussed during the early days of the war after Ukrainian soldiers from the small forerunner Black Sea military post defied the threats of an impending Russian ship by telling it flatly, “The Russian warship. Fuck you.”

It was initially feared that the soldiers had been killed, but Russian state media later reported that they had been taken prisoner.

It was not immediately clear if any Ukrainian soldiers from the island outpost were among the captives who were exchanged on Thursday – but Ukraine’s Border Guard Agency said earlier today that Vereshchuk was working to free the soldiers who were on Snake Island.

The Ukrainian civilian sailors freed by Russia were aboard the Sapphire, a ship that sailed to the island on a search and rescue mission but was itself captured. As part of the swap, Russian forces will release their vessel and send it to a dock in Turkey, Vereshchuk said.

Ukraine and Russia engaged in at least two small prisoner swaps during the month-long war, including the exchange of nine Russian military personnel for Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov.

And on March 1, the Ukrainian army said it had exchanged a captured Russian military police officer for five Ukrainian soldiers in Sumy, an oblast in northeastern Ukraine.

This story originally appeared on the morning edition live blog.


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