By order of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the first full-fledged exchange of prisoners of war took place on 24 March. Nineteen sailors from Zmiyinyy Island and another ten servicemen are returning to Ukraine.
Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, Iryna Vereshchuk, announced it.
"We asked for ten our servicemen in exchange for ten captured occupiers. Also, today, we sent 11 Russian civilian sailors to the Russians, whom we rescued from a sunken ship near Odesa. As a result of this exchange, 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors from the rescue ship "Sapphire" are returning home. These are the sailors who the occupiers captured during an attempt to take our militaries from Zmiyinyy Island," Vereshchuk said.
According to her, under the terms of the exchange, Ukraine will receive the rescue ship itself. The Russians will send it to a port in Turkey.
Earlier, Ukraine exchanged 10 Russian conscripts for the mayor of Melitopol, abducted by the occupiers.
Iryna Vereshchuk reported that Ukraine hoped to return the sailors captured by Russia from the Zmiyinyy island the day before. The Russian side expressed a desire to return its people drowning in the Black Sea.
On 24 February, the Russian Federation attacked Zmiyinyy Island from ships. After the shelling, communication with Ukrainian border guards and the Armed Forces was lost. Then the SBGS reported that the occupiers captured the island.
On 26 February, Russian media reported that Ukrainian servicemen on the island had been taken to Sevastopol, which Russia temporarily occupied.