Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has returned from a visit to Turkey in the company of Azov Battalion commanders, prompting the Kremlin to express its displeasure. The Kremlin claims that Turkey has violated a prisoner exchange agreement by allowing the return of the Azov battalion commanders to Ukraine.
A Ukrainian paramilitary unit known as the Azov Battalion gained recognition during the siege of Mariupol for their steadfast defence of the Azovstal steel plant. Russia disapproves of this battalion in particular due to their connections with Ukrainian extreme nationalists. The release of the Azov commanders, who had been captured by Russia and transferred to Turkey as part of the prisoner exchange agreement, has escalated international tensions.
President Zelensky shared the news on his Twitter account, stating, “We are returning home from Turkey, bringing our heroes back with us. Ukrainian soldiers Denys Prokopenko, Svyatoslav Palamar, Serhii Volynskyi, Oleg Khomenko, and Denys Shlega will finally be reunited with their families.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Turkey of violating the agreement by releasing the Azov Battalion commanders. As part of a prisoner exchange agreement between Ukraine and Russia, it was stipulated that the five Ukrainian commanding officers, namely Denys Prokopenko, Serhiy Volynskiy, Sviatoslav Palamar, Denys Shleha and Oleh Khomenko would remain in Turkey.
According to Russian state news agency RIA, Peskov emphasised that according to the terms of the prisoner exchange, the commanders were supposed to remain in Turkey until the end of the conflict and that Russia had not been informed of their release.