Turkey Frees Ukrainian Commanders, Russia Expresses Displeasure
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has returned home from his visit to Turkey, bringing back five commanders from Ukraine's former garrison in Mariupol. However, Russia has criticized the move, claiming that it violates the terms of a prisoner exchange agreement that was brokered last year.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov expressed Russia's discontent, stating that Ankara had promised to keep the commanders in Turkey under the terms of the exchange agreement, and Moscow was not informed about their return.
The five commanders, who are regarded as heroes in Ukraine, led the defense of Mariupol during the Russian invasion. Tragically, thousands of civilians lost their lives as the city was devastated during a three-month siege.
Zelenskiy shared a one-minute video on social media, showing himself and other officials bidding farewell to the commanders as they boarded a Czech airplane together. He expressed his joy at bringing the commanders back to Ukraine and reuniting them with their families.
Last year, Kyiv issued the order for the Ukrainian defenders to surrender after they had held out in tunnels and bunkers beneath a steel plant. In September, Russia released some of the commanders in a prisoner exchange facilitated by Turkey, with the condition that they remain in Turkey until the conflict's end.
Zelenskiy did not provide an explanation for the commanders' return, and there has been no immediate comment from Turkey regarding the matter.
The news of the commanders' return was met with enthusiasm by many Ukrainians on social media, with messages of celebration and congratulations for the commanders' homecoming.