Senior officers of the Azov Battalion were released as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia
Five commanders of the infamous neo-Nazi Azov regiment will stay in Turkey until the conflict between Moscow and Kiev ends, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky confirmed on Facebook on Thursday. All five were recently handed over by Russia as part of a major prisoner exchange with Ukraine.
"We agreed that the five released Azov commanders would stay in comfortable conditions in Turkey until the end of the war and would be able to see their families," Zelensky said in a post. Earlier, he also said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had offered them protection.
On Thursday, Zelensky thanked the Turkish leader for his "leading role" in mediating the prisoner exchange.
All five Azov commanders were captured by the Russian forces and Donbass militias in the spring following the lengthy siege of the Azovstal steel plant in the Azov Sea port city of Mariupol.
Russia handed the five commanders over together with more than 200 Ukrainian soldiers, including more than 100 members of Ukraine's Azov Battalion, whose ranks include fighters with openly nationalist and neo-Nazi views.
The exchange also involved ten foreign nationals that were captured while fighting alongside the Ukrainian Army. British Prime Minister Liz Truss confirmed on Wednesday night that five captured UK nationals who had been fighting alongside Ukrainian troops had been released. Two of them had been convicted of war crimes by a court in the Donetsk People's Republic and sentenced to death. The foreigners have already arrived in Saudi Arabia, which also acted as a mediator during the exchange.
Kiev released 55 Russian and Donbass soldiers in exchange, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The prisoner exchange was confirmed a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization of reservists.