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Russia and Ukraine exchange hundreds of prisoners of war just a week after deadly plane crash

Update on Russian military plane crash
Flight recorders from Russian military plane crash found, Russian state media says 02:19

Russia and Ukraine exchanged hundreds of prisoners of war Wednesday, officials in both countries said, exactly a week after Moscow accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport plane carrying dozens of captured Ukrainian soldiers. Moscow said the plane was brought down by Ukrainian missiles over far-Western Russia on its way to a prisoner swap, killing everyone on board.

The two countries have conducted a number of large prisoner swaps since Russia launched its full-scale, ongoing invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago, but it wasn't clear until Wednesday whether those exchanges would continue after the plane crash.

Russian military plane crashed in Belgorod region
A Russian military plane reportedly carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war crashed in Russia's western Belgorod region on Jan. 24, 2024, according to Russian state media. Omar Zaghloul/Anadolu/Getty

Ukraine did not explicitly deny shooting down the Russian plane, but its intelligence directorate accused Moscow of failing to notify Ukrainian authorities of any flight carrying POWs, suggesting Russia may have deliberately put the Ukrainian troops in harm's way amid increased Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory.

The defense ministry in Moscow said Wednesday that 195 Russian soldiers were freed in the swap, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 207 people, including soldiers and other prisoners, had returned to Ukraine. Russia's defense ministry only noted in its statement that 195 Ukrainian soldiers were included in the swap, without any mention of the other 12 people referred to by Zelenskyy.

Relatives and brothers-in-arms of Ukrainian prisoners of war from the Azov Brigade hold placards at a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 21, 2024, to call for their release iin an exchange for Russian prisoners, amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty

"Our people are home," Zelenskyy said in a social media post.

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