Late in the evening of Sept. 21, outstanding news spread across the Ukrainian internet that a large-scale exchange of prisoners of war took place and 205 of our soldiers returned home. The entire country worried and prayed for our defenders. For Ukrainians, this is an unequivocal victory and a true celebration.
However, probably not everyone paid attention to the fact that another important event for Ukraine is hidden behind the prisoner exchange agreement – the specter of future peace.
Brilliant special operation with the exchange of prisoners
On late Wednesday evening, when the country got the information about the exchange of prisoners, the majority of Ukrainians had one emotion – finally. Despite abuse and torture, our defenders are on their way home soon. This is a victory, and no less important for us than the successful counterattack in the Kharkiv region.
We will, of course, get more information about how and by whom this victory was won only after the war, but we can already draw the first conclusions today.
First. Ukraine and the world received a powerful signal: We will not abandon ours. We will fight for our defenders in any circumstances and this struggle will be successful.
205 Ukrainian soldiers, 108 of them defenders of Azovstal, were exchanged for one Medvedchuk and 55 Russian prisoners of war.
Under the terms of the exchange, five senior officers – the commander of “Azov”, Denys Prokopenko; his deputy Sviatoslav Palamar; marine Serhii Volynskyi; and national guardsmen Denys Shleha and Oleh Khomenko – will be removed to Turkey until the end of the war.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) investigators extracted as much information as they could from Medvedchuk regarding the activities of the Russian agency but according to the old Ukrainian custom, politics were also involved. Of course, Medvedchuk gave properly prepared and documented testimony against Petro Poroshenko in the coal case, which can now be used in the trial without his physical presence.
Second. Ukrainian intelligence, special services, the country’s political leaders and diplomats have proven that they are ready to conduct multi-channel special operations.
In this brilliant special operation, the main intelligence department of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense (GUR), headed by General Budanov, played the primary role. The exchange was carried out in close cooperation with the SBU, which detained Medvedchuk a few months ago, and with Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Significantly, the GUR was formed, unlike the SBU, as a completely new intelligence body. Due to this, it managed to avoid the so-called marks of Soviet heritage and the intelligence service gained all its experience – all its successes and failures – in the process of i conducting its own operations.
Today, the GUR has proven the effectiveness of its work (and we simply do not know how many successful operations). Many experts will compare it with the Israeli MOSSAD and British MI-6. The main thing is that it will remain professional, politically neutral and patriotic in the future.
Third. Ukraine has proved that it is a country responsible to partner countries.
Of course, the exchange would not have taken place without the international and diplomatic component: the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the President and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, personally. For now, the role of the Crimean Tatars and the head of the State Property Fund, Rustam Umerov, remain behind the scenes. IN THE MOUTH
It was possible to take ten foreigners, British citizens, Americans, Swedes, Moroccans who had been captured and illegally sentenced to death, to Saudi Arabia. Of course, our partners, who knew about the general contours of the operation, will be grateful to us for such a step.
The participation of the Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, as a mediator in the exchange process, can significantly strengthen the American oil front against Russia. After the assassination of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in which the Americans accused the prince, the relations between the US and Saudi Arabia had deteriorated significantly.
However, after the release of American prisoners of war, a conversation between President Joe Biden and Prince Mohammed took place, which indicates the first steps towards warming relations, and, therefore, the possible participation of Saudi Arabia, as one of the largest oil-producing countries, in sanctions against Russia.
Finally. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan played a serious role in organizing the exchange of prisoners and once again proved his effectiveness as a mediator.
This not only increases the role of Turkey as a regional superpower, but also brings one of its president’s most cherished dreams to life – to go down in history as a mediator who contributed to the conclusion of peace agreements between Ukraine and Russia.
Peace may be closer than we think
Recep Erdoğan wants to mediate peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia: It’s the publicly declared ambition of the Turkish president. It was at his invitation that the second round of Ukrainian-Russian negotiations took place in Istanbul.
Despite the lack of agreements at this stage, and the suspension of negotiations in general, the Turkish president managed to push through a grain agreement with the UN that unblocked Ukrainian ports. Erdoğan urged that the experience of concluding the grain agreement can and should be used to conclude a general set of peace agreements between Ukraine and russia.
Erdoğan is neither pro-Ukrainian, nor pro-Russian, nor even a pro-Turkish politician. He is, frankly speaking, a pro-Erdoğan politician who does not see himself as separate from Turkey.
It is also necessary to pay attention to at least two more things. First, Erdoğan’s statement after the announcement of the mobilization emphasized that this measure has a negative impact on the achievement of peace.
Second, it is a drain on the parameters of a future peace agreement according to which the RF troops leave Ukraine and a referendum is held only in the Crimea, under the control of the OSCE and the UN, as to which country the peninsula will belong to. Recent events allow us to consider this information as fake, but also as a trial shot for probing public and elite attitudes.
All of the above facts do not mean that super-secret negotiations are already underway where the specific contours of future peace agreements are being discussed. Most likely this indicates that some politicians – in particular, Recep Erdoğan and UN Secretary General António Guterres – are actively lobbying for the renewal of peace talks.
And, above all, they are convinced of the effectiveness of their efforts.
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