Ukraine could exchange Russian POWs for political prisoners

The Ukrainian project "I Want to Live," which helps Russian soldiers in Ukraine to surrender safely, is planning to organize an exchange of Russian POWs for political prisoners convicted in Russia for their anti-war views, according to a Telegram message from the project posted on Aug. 17.

According to the statement, nearly 20,000 Russian citizens have been detained, with at least 636 individuals becoming the subjects of "anti-war" criminal cases since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began. Many have received severe prison sentences of 7-12 years for posting anti-war images on social media.

Families of those targeted by the "repression of Putin's regime for anti-war positions or supporting Ukraine" are encouraged to reach out to the project via email. The project promises legal support and assistance in freeing Russian citizens incarcerated for their anti-war views.

"We will initiate the transfer of such individuals to Ukraine (through exchange or other means) with a possibility of securing political asylum in Ukraine and EU countries," the message reads.

Ukrainian Military Intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov explained to Current Time media outlet how this swap would work.

“There are many people in Russia who have suffered for their anti-war stance, for supporting Ukraine, for standing up against Putin's genocidal war and have received draconian real sentences,” said Yusov.

“They were not afraid to express their civic position. The world should not forget about them and Ukraine will try to free them. They supported Ukraine and Ukraine should support them.”

At the same time, Yusov clarified that this is not about swapping POWs for Russian political opposition leaders.

"The initiative is new and there are many details we cannot reveal yet," he added.

Yusov said that the "I Want to Live" project had received hundreds of appeals from family members and close friends of those convicted for anti-war protests in Russia within a day.