Prisoners of war released in Ukraine after major surprise swap
Prisoners of war were released in Ukraine on Wednesday after an unexpected prisoner swap was carried out with Russia, the largest since the war began and involving almost 300 people.
The swap included 10 foreigners and the commanders who led a prolonged Ukrainian defence of Mariupol earlier this year.
Various prisoners were seen walking free in a location given as Chernihiv.
Saudi Arabia brokered an arrangement whereby the 10 foreigners were flown to Saudi Arabia.
The mediation involved Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has maintained close ties with Putin.
The freed prisoners were American, British, Croatian, Moroccan and Swedish nationals, the ministry said in a statement, adding that a plane carrying the prisoners landed in the kingdom.
The timing and magnitude of the swap came as a surprise, given that Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced a partial troop mobilisation earlier in the day in an apparent escalation of the conflict that began in February.
Pro-Russian separatists had also said last month that the Mariupol commanders would go on trial.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the swap - which involved help from Turkey and Saudi Arabia - had been under preparation for quite a long time and involved intense haggling.
Under the terms of the deal, 215 Ukrainians - most of whom were captured after the fall of Mariupol - were released.
In exchange, Ukraine sent back 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians and Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of a banned pro-Russian party who was facing treason charges.