Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said that prisoner exchanges with Russia aren’t taking place because the Russian Federation doesn’t want their citizens back while also wanting Ukrainian families to believe Kyiv is doing nothing to get their loved ones repatriated.
“This question [why exchanges are not taking place] is heard by all state departments and representatives of the Coordination Headquarters participating in the negotiation processes. And there is an answer to this question. Exchanges are not taking place because Russia doesn’t want [them]!” he wrote via his Telegram on Thursday, Nov. 30.
Lubinets said that all initiatives, wishes, and actions of Ukraine regarding the return of its defenders from captivity run into Russian reluctance to carry out the return of even its own citizens.
To illustrate this Lubinets said: “Many Russian prisoners have written statements that they want to return, but no one from the Russian side wants to take them back.”
A few days ago, the Verkhovna Rada’s Commissioner for Human Rights reported on one of the captured Russians who several times recorded a request to return him home. In Ukraine, the Russian was convicted under Article 110 of the Criminal Code – encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine.
“Not only that, he reported that he had already written an appeal to Russia about five times but did not receive a response,” Lubinets said.
The ombudsman insists that the lack of exchanges has become a strategic element of the Russian operation, so that “the relatives of the defenders believe that the Ukrainian authorities aren’t doing anything to return the soldiers.”
Lubinets said that Ukraine will not accept the lack of progress on repatriation and will continue to work for the return of the defenders.
“Ukraine is ready to take away its people! Ukraine is fighting for everyone!” he says.
Earlier, the representative of the Coordination Staff for the Treatment of Prisoners of War Petro Yatsenko also said that Russia had suspended the exchange of prisoners of war, trying to create the impression that the Ukrainian authorities are not working on this issue.
Yatsenko said that it makes no sense for Ukraine to keep Russian prisoners. However, Russia, for its part, suspended the exchanges, trying to influence the Ukrainian public.
“They are trying to convince us that, as they say, nothing is happening, look! But in fact, the work is going on; we are not sitting idly by. We are constantly working to organize the next exchanges,” Yatsenko noted.
He said that Ukraine is ready for a dialogue and puts forward certain proposals to the Russians. For example, the Ukrainian side created a coordination headquarters together with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Ukrainian authorities have created so-called mixed medical commissions – a tool provided for in the Third Geneva Convention. The commission consists of two representatives of a neutral country and one representative of the country holding the prisoners of war, that is, Ukraine.
Yatsenko said that Russia should also form a similar commission so that these commissions, visiting places of detention, could identify prisoners of war who need medical care and who should be repatriated.
Yatsenko also said that Ukraine sent an open letter to Russia on behalf of the Secretary of the Coordination Staff, General Dmytro Usov.
“We emphasize that Russia must also fulfill its international agreements and agreements that they have signed,” Yatsenko said. “They constantly at the diplomatic level, in the UN, for example, claim that they comply with everything. We show that de facto no [sic], nothing is happening.”
Since the beginning of the full-scale war, Ukraine and Russia have regularly exchanged prisoners of war. The last one took place on Aug. 7. During this exchange, 22 soldiers returned home, including two officers, and 20 enlisted and non-commissioned officers.
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