Ukraine Russia prisoner swap: exchange explained, how many released - were Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner freed?

215 Ukrainian and foreign citizens were among the high-profile prisoner swap

Two British nationals who had been sentenced to death by Russia have been released as part of a prisoner swap with Ukraine.

President Volodymr Zelensky and his government have been in discussions for months in an effort to free many of the fighters who defended a steel plant in Mariupol during a long Russian siege.

In total 215 Ukrainian and foreign citizens have been freed, with the help of Turkish and Saudi mediation efforts.

President Zelensky said many were soldiers and officers who had faced the death penalty in Russian-occupied territory.

Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, who had been sentenced to death, were among the prisoners involved in the swap.

Here is all you need to know:

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Who was involved in the prisoner swap?

Of the total, 200 Ukrainians were exchanged for just one man — pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, who is Ukrainian.

In another swap, Ukraine won the release of five commanders who led Ukraine’s defence of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in exchange for 55 Russian prisoners it was holding, Mr Zelensky said.

The complex prisoner swap also brought the release of 10 foreigners, including five British nationals and two US military veterans who had fought with Ukrainian forces.

Have Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin been released?

The two British nationals who had been sentenced to death by Pro-Moscow regimes after been released in the swap.

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Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin captured by Russia while fighting in Mariupol.

The men, along with Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, were convicted of taking action towards violent seizure of power at a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

The court sentenced them to death in a move which was widely criticised at the time.

The UK Government insisted the judgment had no legitimacy and the pair should be treated as prisoners of war.

Aiden Aslin (left) and Shaun Pinner behind bars (Videograb)

Who is Viktor Medvedchuk?

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As part of the prisoner swap, Ukraine traded the pro-Russian opposition leader for 200 soldiers.

Mr Medvedchuk is an oligarch who escaped from house arrest in Ukraine several days before Russia’s invasion on 24 February but was recaptured in April.

He faced up to life in prison on charges of treason and aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation for mediating coal purchases for the separatist, Russian-backed Donetsk republic in eastern Ukraine.

Russian officials did not immediately comment on what appeared to be the biggest prisoner swap of the nearly seven-month war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to be the godfather of Mr Medvedchuk’s youngest daughter, and his detention sparked a heated exchange between officials in Moscow and Kyiv.

He is the head of the political council of Ukraine’s pro-Russian Opposition Platform-For Life party, the largest opposition group in Ukraine’s parliament.

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The government has suspended the party’s activity.

“It is not a pity to give up Medvedchuk for real warriors,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video speech.

“He has passed all the investigative actions provided by law. Ukraine has received from him everything necessary to establish the truth in the framework of criminal proceedings.”

Have any prominent Ukranians been released?

As part of the prisoner swap, President Zelensky and his negotiators won the freedom of five commanders who led Ukraine’s defence of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

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More than 2,000 defenders, many from the Azov Regiment, marched out of the Azovstal steel plant’s twisted wreckage into Russian captivity in mid-May, ending a nearly three-month siege of the port city of Mariupol.

Mr Zelensky said the five leaders, including regiment commanders Denys Prokopenko and Svyatoslav Palamar, are in Turkey, where they will remain as part of the deal “in complete safety” until the end of the war, under the protection of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Who oversaw the prisoner swap?

The negotiations between Ukraine and Russia were helped by Turkish and Saudi mediation efforts.

US and Saudi officials confirmed Saudi Arabia’s role in the mediation.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres welcomed the exchanges, calling them “no small feat”, but added that “much more remains to be done to ease the suffering caused by the war in Ukraine”, his spokesman said.