Kyiv says 64 Ukrainians, US citizen released in prisoner swap with Russia

AFP , Wednesday 14 Dec 2022

Ukraine said Wednesday that it had secured the release of a US citizen as well as 64 Ukrainian members of the military in its latest prisoner swap with Russian forces.

A prisoners swap between Russia and Ukraine
A group of Russian soldiers leave a bus after being released in a prisoners swap between Russia and Ukraine somewhere at an unspecified location. AP


"Sixty-four soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces who fought in Donetsk and Lugansk -- in particular participated in the defence of the city of Bakhmut -- are going home," the Ukraine presidency's chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on social media.

"It was also possible to free a US citizen who helped our people -- Suedi Murekezi."

The White House confirmed the release of a US citizen.

"We certainly welcome the news. But for privacy reasons, I really can't go into any more detail about this individual," US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists.

Russia's state-run TASS news agency has reported that Murekezi was arrested in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine in June and charged with attending anti-Russian protests and inciting "ethnic hatred".

Citing his lawyer, TASS said Murekezi was born in Rwanda and moved to the United States with his family in 1994. The lawyer said Murekezi worked in a nightclub in Kherson city and denied his client was a combattant.

Russian forces captured Kherson city soon after they invaded Ukraine in February, but Ukrainian troops retook it this autumn. It has been subjected to frequent bouts of Russian shelling since.

Ukrainian officials say the epicentre of fighting since Kherson's recapture has been the Donetsk region where Russian forces have for months been trying to capture Bakhmut.

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