Ukrainians shed tears of joy as 215 soldiers freed

STORY: The prisoner swap on Wednesday (September 21) involved almost 300 people, including 10 foreigners as well as the commanders who led a prolonged Ukrainian defense of Mariupol earlier this year.

“I was crying while watching the video. They are amazing people,” said local resident, Stas Halaiduk.

Another Kyiv resident, Yuliia Adamovych said she felt "sheer joy that they are coming back".

The foreigners released included two Britons and a Moroccan who had been sentenced to death in June after being captured fighting for Ukraine. Also freed were three other Britons, two Americans, a Croatian, and a Swedish national.

It’s the largest since the war began in February.

The timing and magnitude of the swap came as a surprise, given Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced a partial troop mobilization earlier in the day in an apparent escalation of the conflict that began in February. Pro-Russian separatists had also said last month that the Mariupol commanders would go on trial.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the swap - which involved help from Turkey and Saudi Arabia - had been under preparation for quite a long time and involved intense haggling. Under the terms of the deal, 215 Ukrainians - most of whom were captured after the fall of Mariupol - were released.

In exchange, Ukraine sent back 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians and Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of a banned pro-Russian party who was facing treason charges.