The day after the United States conducted a prisoner swap with Russia, Ukraine called for Russia to return “all prisoners of war and deportees” held in its country to be safely returned.
The comments came amid a nightly address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said the safe return of its Ukrainian citizens was paramount to a peace deal.
“Let me remind you that the peace formula consists of ten points – from nuclear security to the restoration of the territorial integrity of our state, from energy security to the return of all prisoners of war and deportees held on the territory of Russia,” Zelenskyy said Friday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on November 19, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidency via Getty Images)
He added: “This is now one of the key tasks for our state – to involve the world in 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 the real responsibility of the terrorist state for this war, and we must guarantee the safety of all generations of Ukrainians after the end of this war.”
In his remarks, Zelenskyy said he was petitioning the world to remain involved in the peace-seeking process, as his country looks to form a deal that is “real” and “reliable.”
“Today, a conference was held in Kyiv, which continued the line of events in our country and in Europe that took place this week and last week, during which we work out solutions for the sake of justice, for the sake of holding Russia accountable, and for the sake of finding formats for the release of our people, who are held captive by the occupiers,” he said.
“We feel support from both states and international organizations and human rights institutions. We hope to be able to announce specific details in the near future,” Zelenskyy added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a screen projection during the 104th session of the Congress of Mayors organised by "France’s Mayors’ Association" (AMF), in Paris, on November 22, 2022. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)
The Ukrainian leader said he was also looking forward to the day Ukraine can celebrate victory over Russia.
A victory remains to be seen as the warring, which started when Russian forces first invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 of this year, looks to stretch into the winter season.
Russia continues to shell the eastern frontline and has completely razed some cities to the ground, Zelenskyy said.
“The front-line situation remains very difficult in the key areas of Donbas – Bakhmut, Soledar, Maryinka, Kreminna,” he said. “There is no living place left on the land of these areas that has not been damaged by shells and fire. The occupiers actually destroyed Bakhmut.”
Russia has also conscripted additional troops and has escalated its verbal threats upon Ukraine and the world, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said he could launch preemptive nuclear attacks.
The attacks, he said, would come if the U.S. did not stop providing Ukraine with weapons, especially if these weapons were then used on Russian soil.
On Thursday, President Biden announced the U.S. 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.
U.S. officials have said their lines of communication remain open with Moscow and that additional prisoner swaps could be agreed to.