According to Ukrainian Presidential Advisor, Yurii Biriukov, 14 of the 73 freed prisoners of war were suspected of being deserters as indicated on Facebook. The soldiers suspected of desertion will not be able to access financial compensation until a court hands down a verdict.
This came after veterans of the antiterrorist operation [the armed conflict between government troops and Russian-backed separatist forces in Donbas] became frustrated when recognizing deserters among the soldiers who had been freed as part of the prisoner exchange.
At first, according to Biriukov, the soldiers suspected of desertion were supposed to arrive in Kyiv on a separate flight into the Zhuliany airport. However, bad weather conditions influenced the decision and all freed Ukrainian military members arrived on a single flight at the Boryspil airport. Another factor taken into consideration was “sensitive feelings of the relatives, which we did not want to hurt and therefore decided not to divide the troops at arrival,” Biriukov stressed.
On Wednesday, December 27th, an exchange of prisoners of war captured in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine took place at a designated checkpoint near Horlivka (Donetsk region). As a result, Ukraine exchanged 233 persons claimed by separatists for 73 Ukrainians captured and kept hostage by militants.