Russian deputy and negotiator Leonid Slutsky announced Saturday that his country is considering the possibility of exchanging prisoners of the Ukrainian Azov Brigade fighters for Viktor Medvechuk, who is close to President Vladimir Putin.
“We will study the issue,” said Slutsky, a member of the Russian delegation during the recent negotiations with Kyiv, as quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency, in response to a question in this regard.
Speaking from the separatist city of Donetsk in southeastern Ukraine, he said that the possibility of such an exchange would be discussed in Moscow by “those who have the authority” to do so.
And Viktor Medevichuk, 67, a Ukrainian politician and businessman known for his closeness to the Russian president, was arrested in mid-April in Ukraine after fleeing since the start of the Russian offensive in late February.
He has been under house arrest since May 2021 after being accused of “high treason” and “attempting to plunder the natural resources of Crimea”, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
The Russian military confirmed Friday that the last Ukrainian defenders of the strategic city of Mariupol, holed up in the sprawling Azovstal complex, had surrendered.
Among them are fighters in the nationalist Azov battalion, which the Kremlin considers “neo-Nazis”. Kyiv hopes to release these in exchange for Russian prisoners.
On May 26, the Russian Supreme Court is considering a request to classify this battalion as a “terrorist organisation”. This would complicate the prisoner exchange process.
And the leader of the separatists in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, said Saturday that the Ukrainian soldiers who defended Azovstal and surrendered should be prosecuted.
“I see that there is no escape from the court. Justice must win,” RIA Novosti quoted Pushilin as saying at a press conference attended by Leonid Slutsky.