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Gazeta.ru reports that Russian GRU soldiers Aleksander Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev — captured in May near the town of Schastye in the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic,” brought to Kiev, and charged with espionage — have been exchanged for members of Ukraine’s armed forces.
A source in Russian law-enforcement and Aleksandrov’s lawyer in Kiev, Konstantin Kravchuk, confirmed the story, but the Russian Defense Ministry had no comment. No other details were available.
The two GRU spetsnaz fighters, Yerofeyev, a captain, and Aleksandrov, his subordinate, a sergeant were traded for “Ukrainian citizens, and citizens of other countries who fought on the Ukrainian side,” an informed source in the Russian power ministries (army or intelligence) told Gazeta.ru. He added, “Our guys were subjected to brutal torture in captivity.”
There was no further detail on who the Ukrainians were or what other nationals were exchanged.
Oksana Sokolovskaya, the other lawyer for the detainees commented several days ago (translation by The Interpreter):
“Conversations about how Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev could be exchanged were constantly going on, we greatly hope for this, the work is underway.”
But she had no comment today.
The pair of GRU officers, who served in the 3rd Separate guard Brigade of the GRU spetsnaz were seized on May 16 near the town of Schastye as Ukrainian troops were rotating fresh forces into the area. Both were wounded in a shoot-out and hospitalized. Yerofeyev appeared to recover sooner and was brought to pre-trial detention. Aleksandrov had remained in the hospital.
In a publicized videotape made by Ukrainian forces, the GRU officers said they had come to Ukraine on March 26 of this year in a battalion of 220 people. Recently, InformNapalm found evidence of other members of this another Russian battalion in Ukraine.
Aleksandrov had told journalists recently that he feared he would be disowned by Russia as he was cooperating with the investigation.
Ukrainian sources and the lawyers for the captured officers said they were not tortured, were kept in separate antiseptic wards, allowed to receive visits from Russian consular officers and given one phone call to their relatives. They were operated and received bone implants. Sergei Krivenko, director of the NGO Citizen and the Army and a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, said the GRU officers were not tortured, and Aleksandrov was able to prevent an amputation thanks to Ukrainian medical care.
Last week, Sergei Botsvin, head of the reporting department of the Russian Defense Ministry, said that both Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev in fact served in the Russian army, but they then resigned from armed service and later went as volunteers to southeastern Ukraine.
But Aleksandrov himself, in an interview, with Novaya Gazeta’s Pavel Kanygin, said he was on active duty as a contract soldier and had not resigned but was on assignment in Ukraine.
Despite persistent rumors, there is no evidence that captured Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko is involved in the POW exchange.
No independent source outside of Russia has reported this exchange so we are waiting to get more confirmation.
The SBU and Yerofeyev’s lawyer, Oksana Sokolovskaya, have both denied this report, saying Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev remain in Ukraine:
Leviy Bereg reports that the Interior Ministry (MVD) has announced that a civilian was killed and another wounded last night by shelling in Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk.
According to the head of the Donetsk regional branch of the MVD, Vyacheslav Abroskin, shelling began at around 21:00.
One woman, born in 1950, was killed when a shell struck her home, leaving her with multiple shrapnel wounds. Her body was found in her garden this morning by neighbours.
A male pensioner, born in 1935, received shrapnel wounds after the apartment building in which he lives was struck by multiple shells. He has been taken to hospital.
— Pierre Vaux
Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, has announced that one Ukrainian soldier has been killed and seven wounded over the last 24 hours.
Earlier this morning, the Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre claimed that Russian-backed forces had stepped up their attacks over the previous day. According to the report, there were 86 attacks recorded yesterday, 50 of which took place between 18:00 and midnight.
The military reported that Russian-backed forces had used heavy weaponry at a higher rate than usual.
In the Donetsk area, residential areas of Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk, were shelled from 20:20 last night with 152 mm artillery, fired from the direction of separatist-held Spartak.
A few kilometres south-west of Avdeyevka, Ukrainian troops near Vodyanoye were shelled by 122 mm howitzers.
To the east, there was heavy fighting around Gorlovka. Between 21:00 and midnight, Ukrianian positions near Nikolaevka were subjected to “massive shelling” from three directions with 152 mm artillery, 120 mm mortars and tanks.
Troops near Mayorsk and Pervovo Maya were shelled with 152 mm artillery and 120 mm mortars.
Attacks were also recorded near Marinka, Shirokino, Avdeyevka, Luganskoye, Kirovo and Stanitsa Luganskaya and Schastye.
The attacks did not cease after midnight, with the military reporting that the period from midnight until 6 am today has seen “record numbers” of violations of the Minsk agreements.
According to the report, Ukrainian positions north of Donetsk were shelled with heavy weaponry, including Grad MLRS.
Grads were used against both Vodyanoye and Opytnoye, where troops also came under fire from tanks, 122 mm howitzers and 120 mm mortars.
Just this morning, 152 mm and 122 mm artillery, as well as 120 mm mortars, were reported to have been used against Stanitsa Luganskaya, Mayorsk, Schastye, Pervomayskoye, Nikolaevka, Opytnoye, Peski, Vodyanoye, Granitnoye, and Starognatovka.
— Pierre Vaux