NewsUkrainian priests and Tatars among freed in latest prisoner exchange

Ukrainian priests and Tatars among freed in latest prisoner exchange

Priests freed from Russian captivity. They are already in Ukraine.
Priests freed from Russian captivity. They are already in Ukraine.
Images source: © Wołodymyr Zełeński, Telegram
Mateusz Kaluga

29 June 2024 16:37

A significant number of prisoners of war are still held in Russian captivity. Ukrainian media report that in recent days, ten people, including two priests, have been freed. The Vatican was reportedly involved in negotiations with the Kremlin, requesting the release of the clergy and their return to Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine continues. Occasionally, Russia agrees to release prisoners. This time, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the return of 10 civilian prisoners from Russian and Belarusian captivity. Ukrainian media report that this marks the 53rd prisoner exchange between the nations.

I am grateful to everyone who helped. I thank our team working to free the prisoners. I also want to acknowledge the efforts of the Holy See in bringing these people home - cites quoting Volodymyr Zelensky.

According to, among those who returned to the country is Nariman Dzhelal, Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People - the only high-ranking representative and executive body of the Crimean Tatar population. The politician was likely captured in Crimea in 2021.

Politician and priests return to the country from Russian captivity

Additionally, the Russians returned two priests from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church who were captured in Berdyansk. The reason was allegedly resistance against the occupiers. They are Bohdan Geleta and Ivan Lewicki. Russian media reported that both Redemptorists possessed weapons and explosives, as well as "extremist" literature.

The Vatican was involved in the priests' release, but the Holy See's exact role is unknown. According to, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church expressed gratitude for saving the priests. He thanked Pope Francis, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi and Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine. Both were reportedly involved in the mediation. also reports that historian and researcher from the Horlivka Art Museum Olena Pekh and political prisoner Valeriy Matiushenko were freed. Both were detained in the Donetsk region.

The rest of those freed were arrested in Belarus. They were reportedly informing the Ukrainian side about the movements of Russian troops.

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