News U.S. veteran Suedi Murekezi freed in Ukrainian-Russian prisoner swap


U.S. Air Force veteran Suedi Murekezi, who was captured by pro-Russian separatists earlier this year in Ukraine earlier this year, has been released through a prisoner exchange, a senior Ukrainian official announced Wednesday.

Murekezi, who has lived in Ukraine since 2018, was taken away by pro-Russian forces in the southern city of Kherson in early June, according to his brother Sele Murekezi, who added that he had been falsely accused of taking part in pro-Ukrainian protests.

Andrey Yermak, Head of the Presidential Office of Ukraine, wrote on twitter On Wednesday, Murekezi was released along with 64 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. He described Murekezi as an “American citizen helping our people”. The remains of four other Ukrainians were also repatriated, Yermak added.

Sele Murekezi said that when he spoke to his brother in July, he mentioned that he was being held in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic along with two other U.S. nationals.

Air Force veteran detained by pro-Russian separatists, brothers say

Suedi Murekezi was born in Rwanda, came to the United States as a teenager and served in the Air Force for eight years, according to his brother. He later moved to Ukraine, where he was stationed in Kherson – the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the Feb. 24 invasion and recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces.

In September, Russia released 300 prisoners in a captive exchange, including several foreigners, including two US veterans, five Britons and a Moroccan national. Three of the foreign prisoners had previously been sentenced to death.

A total of 1,456 prisoners were released from Russian captivity or Russian-controlled territories Andriy Yusov, spokesman for the Ukrainian Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War since the start of the conflict, told the Post on Wednesday.

As the pace of prisoner exchanges between Russia and Ukraine has accelerated in recent weeks, reports have emerged of mistreatment of detainees in Russian captivity.

One prisoner of war told The Washington Post that he was beaten badly, with broken ribs and a badly damaged kidney.

Scarred prisoners of war speak of abuse as Ukraine and Russia step up prisoner swap

News of the latest prisoner exchange comes days after WNBA star Brittney Griner was released by Moscow in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The US is also trying to secure the release of another US national, Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia for four years and sentenced to 16 years on espionage charges that Washington has condemned as false.

Marisa Iati and Annabelle Timsit contributed to this report.

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