More than 100 Ukrainians who fought in the Bakhmut area and were captured as prisoners of war have been released in a prisoner swap, Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said Thursday.
“We are returning home 106 of our people. These are the fighters from the Bakhmut direction - 8 officers and 98 soldiers and sergeants,” Yermak said in a Telegram post“They fought for Bakhmut and accomplished a feat that prevented the enemy from advancing further into our East," he said. "Each and every one of them is a hero of our country."
Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said three bodies were also repatriated — two foreigners and a Ukrainian woman — during the exchange.
“All of the released defenders defended our country in Bakhmut direction; 68 of them were considered missing,” the coordination group said.
The group said 98 of the POWs were from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, including 21 from Ukraine’s Territorial Defense. Seven border guards and one serviceman of the State Special Transport Service were also released, it said.
“At least seven of the rescued defenders sustained various injuries: bullet and shrapnel wounds, burns and fractures, and [had] exacerbated chronic diseases. The oldest of the rescued soldiers is 59 years old, the youngest is 21 years old,” it added.
In total, 2,430 people have been returned home as a result of exchanges, the group said, adding among that figure are 139 civilians.
Some context: Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin announced his fighters are withdrawing from the eastern Ukrainian city and will be replaced by Russian soldiers.
Ukrainian officials on Tuesday said part of the city remains under Ukrainian control. “If they [Russians] believe they have taken Bakhmut, I can say that this is not true. As of today, part of Bakhmut is under our control,” Ukrainian national security adviser Oleksiy Danilov told CNN.