Ukraine welcomes home ‘heroes’ after prisoner swap; Russian mobilization sparks anti-war protests

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Over 1,300 detained in nationwide anti-war protests

More than 1,300 people have been arrested in Russia following nationwide protests over President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilize more troops for the war in Ukraine.

Around 1,307 people were detained in 39 cities across the country, according to the independent human rights group OVD-Info.

The largest numbers were arrested in the capital city of Moscow (at least 542) and St. Petersburg (at least 479).

— Sam Meredith

Foreign fighters freed after significant prisoner exchange

Ten prisoners of war from five countries, including the U.S. and U.K., have been released after being detained in Russian-held areas of Ukraine on Wednesday as part of a wider prisoner exchange.

The prisoner swap came after Saudi Arabia brokered a deal between Russia and Ukraine, the Saudi government said in a statement. The deal saw 10 prisoners of war — Moroccan, U.S., U.K. and Swedish and Croatian nationals — exchanged as part of a larger prisoner swap between Moscow and Kyiv.

Some of the POWs had been put on “trial” in courts set up by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and had been told they faced the death penalty for fighting in Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine exchanged around 200 prisoners of war on Sept. 21, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

As part of a wider prisoner exchange also brokered by Turkey, Russia exchanged 215 Ukrainian soldiers, including those who were holed up in the Azovstal steelworks complex in Mariupol in a long-running siege in the early stages of the conflict, for 55 Russian soldiers and a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician and oligarch, Viktor Medvechuk.

Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy’s Telegram channel hailed the exchange on Thursday, saying “a total of 215 heroes” were finally coming home after being detained by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine. There have been reports of torture and mistreatment while in captivity although Russia denies these.

Russia and Ukraine exchanged around 200 prisoners of war on September 21, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

“Exchange has just finished. We are bringing our people home. This is definitely a victory for our state, for our entire society. And most importantly – for 215 families who will be able to see their loved ones in safety.

“We remember all our people and try to save every Ukrainian. This is the meaning of Ukraine, our essence, this is what distinguishes us from the enemy. We value every life! And we will definitely do everything to save everyone who is in Russian captivity,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy calls Russia a state sponsor of terrorism

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during an interview with Reuters, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine September 16, 2022. 

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that global leaders hold Russia accountable for its monthslong assault on his nation.

“Russia should pay for this war,” Zelenskyy said, calling for a special U.N. tribunal to “punish Russia.”

“We must finally recognize Russia as a the state of sponsor of terrorism,” Zelenskyy said at the 77th U.N. General Assembly in New York City.

Zelenskyy’s dramatic remarks to world leaders came on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops for war.

Zelenskyy, who has not left his war-weary nation since Russia’s full-throttle invasion in February, appeared virtually after an introduction by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the 77th U.N. General Assembly.

— Amanda Macias

Partial mobilization is ‘great tragedy’ for Russian people, Ukraine official says

A top Ukrainian official has described Russia’s announcement of a partial mobilization of its military as a “great tragedy” for the Russian people.

The move, announced by President Putin on Wednesday morning, will see around 300,000 military reservists called-up and sent to Ukraine.

Serhiy Nykyforov, spokesperson to the Office of the President of Ukraine, told NBC’s Erin McLaughlin that “300,000 of people who were conscripts just yesterday will be sent to the places where recidivist thugs, mercenaries, and vaunted Kadyrov [Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic] fighters failed.  It is clear what will happen to these guys there, whom, as we saw in the first days of the invasion, the army cannot properly train and provide,” he said.

“This is a recognition of the incapacity of the Russian professional army, which has failed in all its tasks.  As we can see, the Russian authorities intend to compensate for this with violence and repression against their own people.  The sooner it stops, the fewer Russian sons will go to die at the front,” he added.

— Holly Ellyatt

NATO Secretary General says allies will ‘continue to step up support’ for Ukraine as Putin mobilizes more troops for war

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

“The Ukrainian people and forces inspire us all with their courage and determination,” the NATO chief wrote on Twitter.

“As president Putin escalates Russia’s war, it is even more important that NATO allies continue to step up support,” he added, referencing the Kremlin’s recent announcement to mobilize additional troops for the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to deliver a dramatic speech at the U.N. later on Wednesday.

— Amanda Macias

Biden calls for U.N. member states to stand with Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, September 21, 2022.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

President Joe Biden called for U.N. member states to stand with Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression, warning that the Kremlin’s invasion of its smaller neighbor threatened the independence and sovereignty of nations around the world.

“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” Biden told the U.N. General Assembly. “Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe — that should make your blood run cold.”

Biden condemned Russia’s invasion as a clear violation of the U.N. charter. The U.S. president said the nations of the world had an obligation to put their political differences aside and defend the global body’s founding principles by standing in solidarity with Ukraine.

“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for,” Biden said. The president called for the U.N. to be “clear, firm and unwavering in our resolve.”

“Ukraine has the same rights that belong to every sovereign nation. We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine, we will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression – period,” Biden said.

— Spencer Kimball

Russia’s partial mobilization will see 300,000 reservists called up

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a wreath-laying ceremony, which marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany in 1941, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2022.

Mikhail Metzel | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin’s decree on partial mobilisation would see 300,000 additional personnel called up to serve in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

In an interview with Russian state television, Shoigu said that students and those who served as conscripts would not be called up, and that the majority of Russia’s millions-strong reserves would not be drafted.

Those being called up would receive military training, the minister added.

— Reuters

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