Kremlin says no plan for swapping Ukrainian prisoners for Russian POWs

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Kremlin says no plan for swapping Ukrainian prisoners for Russian POWs

The Kremlin says that by shunning Azov fighters for Ukraine opposition leader Medvedchuk out of the question, the Ukrainian opposition leader Medvedchuk is out of the question.

Any requests for swapping Ukrainian prisoners from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, for Russian POWs, would have to go through the defense ministry, according to a spokesman for Kremlin Dmitry Peskov on Monday.

When asked by journalists about the jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, he reiterated that Russia had no intention of doing a swap despite the politician s request for such action.

Peskov told the media that Medvedchuk is a Ukrainian citizen who has nothing to do with Russia and is not military. He added that Ukrainian soldiers and members of the Neo-Nazi Azov National Guard unit are a different category.

Medvedchuk led the biggest opposition faction in the Ukrainian parliament before the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky launched a crackdown on its opponents. The politician is currently in the custody of the domestic security agency of SBU, Ukraine.

On Monday, the SBU released footage of Medvedchuk indicting former President Petro Poroshenko, and his government, in the partial privatization of a fuel pipeline that runs from Russia and Belarus to Ukraine and west to the EU. In February, Zelensky ordered the nationalization of the Ukrainian stretch.

The former president accused the politician of asking him to organize illegal supplies of coal from the breakaway eastern regions of Donbass. Mevdechuk's attorney said the video was a public relations stunt by the SBU.

Medvedchuk has a reputation for having extensive ties to Russia. Critics claim that he was part of a fifth column helping Moscow, while he insists that he is the victim of political persecution by Zelensky.

After reporting on the capture of Medvedchuk, the SBU released a video in which he asked to be exchanged for the defenders and residents of Mariupol. He was talking about Ukrainian troops that were blocked in Azovstal, a heavily fortified steelworks in the port city, which was otherwise controlled by Russian troops. Ukrainian forces surrendered last week, with Moscow reportedly capturing more than 2,500 people, including members of the controversial nationalist Azov battalion.

Ukrainian officials described the surrender as an evacuation and claimed that the fighters would be exchanged for Russian POWs detained by Ukraine. They implied Kiev had agreed on an exchange deal with Moscow before Zelensky ordered the troops to lay down arms.

Russia did not confirm the Ukrainian claim, while some of Moscow's officials argued that the Azov fighters should be prosecuted for alleged war crimes.

Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine in late February, after Kiev s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied it plans to retake the two republics by force.