War in Ukraine

Returning All Prisoners of War and Detained Civilians Through Ukraine’s Peace Plan

Returning Prisoners

Ukraine and Switzerland are due to host the Summit on Peace for Ukraine in June. One of the key discussion topics will be the release of all prisoners from each side in an "all-for-all" exchange.

Ukraine has developed its own Peace Formula, consisting of ten steps. Each step aims to stop Russia's bloody war against Ukraine, restore peace in Europe, and ensure global security and adherence to established rules of international relations. The Summit on Peace for Ukraine, where this will be discussed, will take place in Switzerland in June. Its participants will include representatives from dozens of countries, such as the USA, Germany, the UK, France, Japan, South Korea, Chile, and others.

At the Summit on Peace for Ukraine, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy will present this formula. It not only aims to restore peace in Ukraine but also addresses issues of nuclear, energy, and food security worldwide. Among these topics, participants will discuss a plan for an "all-for-all" prisoner exchange.

Ukrainians in Captivity

The latest information regarding Ukrainian prisoners dates back to early 2024. At that time, Yuriy Taranyuk, a representative of the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, stated that more than 8,000 military and civilians were in Russian captivity.

It is known that at least 1,600 prisoners have been held in Russia for more than two years: these are soldiers who defended Mariupol and left Azovstal in May 2022. About 900 of them are from the Azov Brigade, whom Russia refuses to exchange under any conditions.

The situation is further complicated by the Russian side's refusal to engage in dialogue regarding the treatment of prisoners. Representatives of the Russian Federation do not provide any information about the location of prisoners of war, their health condition, or their whereabouts. The prisoners are not allowed to correspond, although this is stipulated by the Geneva Conventions, and representatives of the ICRC (the organization mandated to handle such matters) are not allowed to visit.

The situation becomes even more catastrophic considering the following statistics. According to Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, about 40% of prisoners of war who were returned were previously considered missing in action—Russia simply did not provide information about them.

Since the full-scale invasion, Ukraine has managed to return more than 3,210 prisoners of war. Considering the aforementioned numbers, more than 1000 families did not know whether their loved ones were alive or dead.  

According to Lubinets, Russia uses prisoners as a means to pressure Ukrainian society, claiming that it is the Ukrainian leadership that is unwilling to conduct exchanges. This information is false, as the Ukrainian side fully complies with all obligations regarding Russian prisoners and even more: they are allowed to write letters to family back home and even call them. Additionally, Ukraine does not hold civilian Russian citizens captive.

To pressure the Ukrainian population, Russia constantly delays exchanges. There was a significant pause in 2023, with no exchanges for 4 months. A similar situation occurred at the beginning of 2024: after more than a hundred prisoners were returned in February, Russia conducted no exchanges until the end of May: 75 more people were exchanged May 31.

"All-for-All" Exchange

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's proposes to exchange prisoners according to the "all-for-all" formula, which includes military personnel, civilians, and forcibly deported individuals.

Zelenskyy's initiative aims to alleviate the suffering of prisoners. Furthermore, a large-scale exchange would restore faith in the rule of law.

The "all-for-all" exchange formula has already been supported by world religious leaders. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have called for such an exchange. The Ukrainian side has responded to these calls and expressed readiness for such an exchange, either bilaterally or with the involvement of intermediaries. Russia has left these calls unanswered.

At the Summit on Peace for Ukraine on June 15-16, representatives of Ukraine and Switzerland will present the Peace Formula to the international community and once again call on the Russian Federation and its ruling elite to stop the war in Ukraine, restore peace in the region, and ensure security for the European and global community. 

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