Ukraine, Russia Mark Orthodox Easter with Prisoner Exchange

April 17, 2023

Ukraine and Russia marked Orthodox Easter on Sunday with a reported exchange of dozens of prisoners of war.

Andriy Yermak, adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced in a Telegram post Sunday that 130 soldiers, sailors, border guards and others captured by Moscow were being sent back home following a “big Easter prisoner exchange.”

According to Yermak, those released included troops who fought near Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city that has been the focus of Russia’s latest offensive.

“Hope is the quintessence of the holiday. This is exactly what the prisoners’ relatives felt having waited for so long,” Yermak tweeted.

While it’s not clear how many Russian prisoners were freed by Ukraine, the two nations have held regular prisoner exchanges since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

In his Easter Sunday address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, described the holiday as marking “the victory of good, the victory of truth, the victory of life.”

Ukrainian churches are usually packed on Orthodox Easter Sunday. However, the wide courtyard in Kyiv’s landmark St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery was reported to be barely half full this year.

That turnout followed a warning from Ukrainian officials urging residents not to linger in churches on Easter Sunday in order to minimize security risks.

Despite sharing the Orthodox Easter holiday, Ukrainian regional officials said Russian shelling and missile attacks continued to rain down upon Ukraine on Sunday, including the shelling of a church near the  Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that wounded two civilians.

PHOTO: @AndriyYermak

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