Chris Lange, FISM News
Ukraine’s presidential office announced on Sunday that 130 Ukrainian prisoners of war returned home in a “great Easter exchange.” Sunday marked the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s observation of the holy day.
“We are bringing back 130 of our people. It (the exchange) has been taking place in several stages over the past few days,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak announced on the Telegram messaging app, Reuters reported. It was not clear how many Russians were released in Sunday’s exchange.
The swap came just days after 100 Ukrainian fighters were set free in exchange for 106 Russian captives. Ukraine officials also said that the bodies of 82 of its soldiers were recovered from Russian-occupied territories last week.
MOSCOW, CHINA TOUT MILITARY COOPERATION IN MEETING
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed his country’s military cooperation with China following his meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu in Moscow on Sunday.
Putin said that Russia and China’s militaries have conducted joint ground, air force, and naval drills in Europe and the Far East, Newsweek reported.
“I think that it is another major area, which strengthens the trust-based, strategic character of our relations, relations between Russia and China,” the Kremlin leader said in remarks carried by Russia’s Tass news agency, adding that Shangfu “has quite a rich working program” in Russia.
China declared last week that it would not provide weapons or ammunition to either party in the conflict in Ukraine amid Western concerns that Beijing has considered sending lethal aid to assist Russia in its 14-month invasion.
RUSSIA, INDIA STRENGTHEN ECONOMIC TIES
India and Russia are working on a free trade agreement (FTA) aimed at strengthening bilateral commercial ties that have thrived amid the war in Ukraine.
“We pay special attention to the issues of mutual access of production to the markets of our countries,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov said in a joint press conference with India’s Foreign Minister S. Jainshankar in New Delhi on Monday.
“Together with the Eurasian Economic Commission, we are looking forward to intensifying negotiations on a free trade agreement with India,” Manturov, who also serves as Russia’s trade chief, added.
The announcement comes despite Western efforts to persuade India to distance itself from Moscow, its largest weapons supplier.
India’s imports from Russia soared to $46.33 billion since the February 2022 invasion, primarily through oil.
Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said that FTA discussions with Russia had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that he hoped the talks will bear fruit “because we do believe it will make a real difference to our trade relationship.”
WAGNER GROUP CLAIMS MORE GAINS IN BAKHMUT
Moscow’s defense ministry claimed on Sunday that contracted Wagner Group mercenary fighters had “liberated” two additional city blocks of Bakhmut as the months-long bloody battle for the salt-mining city rages on. Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces acknowledged intense combat in the region but said that its forces had “repelled” attacks.
Russia’s defense ministry also claimed that retreating Ukrainian troops are “deliberately destroying the city’s infrastructure and residential buildings to slow down the advance of Russian troops, per Newsweek.
UKRAINE OFFICIAL: HOLY DAY ATTACKS PROVE ‘NOTHING SACRED’ TO RUSSIA
Russia did not let up in attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine over the weekend that left seven people dead, despite the Vatican’s request for a temporary ceasefire on Sunday, the Orthodox Church’s observance of Easter.
An Orthodox temple in Nikopol came under shelling Sunday, injuring two people, according to Serhii Lysak, Ukraine’s Dnipro Oblast Military Administration chief. Lysak said the attack proved once again that “there is nothing sacred” for Moscow’s forces.
Zaporizhzhia City Council Secretary Anatoliy Kurtev said that an 11-year-old child was killed as the result of a shelling attack on the city. Vitaly Kim, the military Governor of Mykolayiv, said two teenagers were killed by Russian shelling. Elsewhere, two men were reported dead after an attack on the Ukrainian city of Kupiansk, per a local official.