A day after the United States conducted a prisoner exchange with Russia, Ukraine demanded Russia return “all prisoners of war and deportees” held in its country for safe return.
The comments came during an overnight speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said the safe return of his Ukrainian citizens was crucial to a peace deal.
“Let me remind you that the peace formula consists of ten points: from nuclear safety to the restoration of the territorial integrity of our state, from energy security to the return of all prisoners of war and deported prisoners on the territory of Russia,” Zelenskyy said Friday.
He added: “This is now one of the key tasks for our state – to involve the world in the concrete implementation of the points of the peace formula. We must return the Ukrainian flag to all cities and communities of Ukraine, we must ensure real accountability of the terrorist state for this war, and we must ensure the safety of all generations of Ukrainians after the end of this war”.
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In his remarks, Zelenskyy said he was asking the world to stay involved in the peace-seeking process, while his country tries to form a deal that is “real” and “trustworthy”.
“Today a conference was held in Kiev, which continued the line of events in our country and in Europe that took place this week and last week, at which we work out solutions for the sake of justice, for the sake of feeling Russia responsible , and for the sake of finding formats for the release of our people, who are held captive by the occupiers,” he said.
“We feel the support of both states and international organizations and human rights institutions. We hope to be able to announce specific details in the near future,” Zelenskyy added.
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The Ukrainian leader said he can’t wait for Ukraine to celebrate victory over Russia.
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A victory remains to be seen as the war, which began when Russian forces first invaded Ukraine on February 24 this year, appears to be continuing into the winter season.
Russia continues to bomb the eastern front line and has completely flattened some cities, Zelensky said.
“The frontline situation remains very difficult in key areas of Donbass: Bakhmut, Soledar, Maryinka, Kreminna,” he said. “There is no living place on earth in these areas that hasn’t been damaged by shells and fires. The occupiers have effectively destroyed Bakhmut.”
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Russia has also raised additional troops and stepped up its verbal threats to Ukraine and the world, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said it could launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes.
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The attacks, he said, would happen if the United States did not stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, especially if these weapons were then used on Russian soil.
On Thursday, President Biden announced that the United States had agreed to a prisoner swap, releasing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner. She landed in San Antonio, Texas early Friday morning.
US officials said their lines of communication remain open with Moscow and further prisoner exchanges could be arranged.