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Ukraine and Russia complete first prisoner swap since plane crash

Russia and Ukraine say they have exchanged captured soldiers – the first swap since the crash of a Russian plane that Moscow claimed had 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war (PoWs) on board.

Russia’s military says each side got 195 soldiers back on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says 207 Ukrainian soldiers were returned.

Kyiv questions Moscow’s claims that Ukrainian PoWs were on the plane that came down last Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed on Wednesday that the Il-76 military transport plane had been downed by Ukraine in the western Belgorod region using an American Patriot system. He provided no proof.

The Russian military had previously said that dozens of Ukrainian soldiers were on the plane, which was heading to the area for a prisoner exchange. It said six Russian crew members and three escorting officials were also on board, adding that there were no survivors.

Russia has as yet produced no firm evidence of its claims and officials there have a long and proven history of lies and disinformation.

Kyiv has not directly denied the Russian statements but says that nothing has been confirmed.

Last week, a spokesman for military intelligence in Kyiv told the BBC that he “does not exclude” the possibility that PoWs were on the Il-76 plane.

Other official statements talk about Ukraine’s right to defend itself from Russian missiles, particularly fired from Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border.

But many in Ukraine wonder why Russia has not shown images of dozens of dead bodies after the plane crash to back up its assertions.

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