Wives of some of the Ukrainian fighters freed in a prisoner exchange by Russia told CNN they were both in disbelief and overjoyed at the news of their loved ones’ release.
Elena Volovik, speaking to CNN via WhatsApp, said she received a phone call from a man she didn’t previously recognize as her husband, Artem Volovik, a Ukrainian marine who died earlier this year in Azostall Steel. The plant was fought, before all of Mariupol was captured. by Russian forces.
“At first I didn’t understand what was happening and where he was,” Alena Volovec recalled. “But he said, ‘Honey, I’m already in Ukraine! There was an exchange.'”
“I just started screaming, my hands were shaking,” she said. “Now I am the happiest woman in the world.”
Russia released 215 people from its custody on Wednesday, including some foreign nationals who had been fighting for Ukraine. In return, Ukraine released 55 people, including Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and oligarch whose daughter is Vladimir Putin’s godmother.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said overnight that the 215 people freed by Russia “include 188 heroes of Azovstal and Mariupol.”
The release of the fighters from Azovstal and Mariupol is a major coup for Ukrainian morale, given the huge role the defense of Mariupol played in the Ukrainian psyche at the beginning of the war.
This is the biggest release of Warriors from Mariupol. In a prisoner exchange in June, Russia released 144 soldiers, 95 of whom defended the Azzustal plant.
Ruslana Volynska, whose husband Serhii “Volyna” Volynskyi, was the acting commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, told CNN via text message that she found out about the exchange on the Internet.
“Later Sirhi called himself, and I heard him. It was overwhelming joy, shock, joy! All emotions were mixed! I cried for joy, and could not believe that this day had come, ” he said.
An adviser to Petro Andreyushenko, the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, who was forced to flee his city after the Russian advance, said on Telegram that Mariupol was “happy to have its heroes back on Ukrainian soil. Even Even in possession!”
“I still can’t believe it,” Elena Volovec told CNN. “I feel like it’s a dream and I’ll wake up soon. I couldn’t sleep until 5 in the morning, because I was so overwhelmed with emotion.
“Just two hours ago, when I was doing some shopping, I realized my husband was at home and started crying. Now all I want is to hug him as soon as possible,” she added. .