Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

Moscow has attempted to trade Ukrainian civilians for Russian military prisoners, according to Ukraine’s deputy prime minister – a move forbidden by the Geneva Convention.

Iryna Vereshchuk told the BBC that her office, which is responsible for negotiating prisoner swaps, declined and instructed Russia to send back Ukrainian civilians it had taken.

There is growing evidence that Russia has forcibly deported large numbers of civilians across the border since it invaded the country in February.

Ms Vereshchuk said they were being used as hostages.“That’s why they captured all these hostages – civilians, women, employees of local councils, to try and use them,” she said.

“We know there are more than a thousand hostages there – including almost 500 women,” she said. “We know they are in prisons and pre-trial detention centres in Kursk, in Briansk, in Riazan, in Rostov.”

She said Russia had also dragged its feet in sending back women civilians. “We are extracting women almost with pliers,” she said. “Now we refuse to hold an exchange with no women in the list. That is how we try to somehow rescue our women and civilians.”

In the most recent exchange, nine civilians were sent back with severe injuries, including amputations performed in Russia.

“There were badly injured people in this exchange – amputated limbs, sepsis, other severe injuries,” Ms Vereshchuk said.

“There were clear signs of torture,” she said. “The stories they told us are terrible.”

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