Russia begins drafting new troops to fight in Ukraine

4 min read
22 September 2022

Mariana Mamonova, a Ukrainian medic who is more than eight months pregnant, is among the prisoners released by Russia.

She can be seen in a video of the prisoner exchange, released by Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday.

She was being held in the notorious Olenivka prison camp in the unrecognised Donetsk People's Republic after being captured in April in Mariupol.

Speaking to the BBC before her release, her husband spoke about his fears over the wellbeing of his wife and unborn baby - the couple's first.

"A baby can't be kept in those conditions, so they could just take it away," Vasilii said.

Mariana was reportedly held under extremely difficult conditions at the prison camp.

A fellow prisoner, Anna Vorosheva, said she was in a cell with more than 20 other women when she first arrived and had to sleep on the floor.

"Straight away, everyone tried to help her - giving her food, making sure she got fresh air," Ms Vorosheva, who was released in July, told the BBC.

Eventually she was moved to a smaller room with fewer people, and her cellmates ensured that she was able to sleep on one of the room's two beds each night.

At first, Mariana assumed that she would be a priority for a prisoner swap. But as her due date at the end of September approached, she began to fear she would give birth in captivity, and became increasingly worried that her baby would be taken from her.

Frustrated at the lack of news, her family decided to go public with Mariana's story in August, drawing attention to her case in the Ukrainian media.

Still weeks passed with no progress, but finally - just days before she is due to give birth - her family received the good news that she had been released.


Mother of released prisoner speaks of elation at his release

The mother of Aiden Aslin, one of the Britons released in the prisoner swap last night, has expressed her elation at her son's return to the UK.

"I thought this day would never happen," Angela Wood told the BBC's Emma Vardy. "I'm still in shock".

Aslin was sentenced to death in June in a Russian proxy court after being accused of being a mercenary in Ukraine. Wood said the sentencing had caused "emotional stress" for the family.

“At times I never thought I would see him alive again," she said.

She said some of the details she's learned of Aslin's time in captivity have "horrified" her, and said he will need time to recover from the ordeal.

She added that “Aiden loved Ukraine and he loved the people," adding that he is now rebuilding his life with his fiancé.


Let's return briefly to last night's prisoner swap. A well-placed Saudi source has told BBC News that the 10 prisoners released by Russia yesterday, including 5 Britons, were not exchanged for anything tangible in return.

A separate prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia was brokered by Turkey but the release of the 10 non-Ukrainians was reached through the personal involvement of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The source said the Prince had chosen to make it a priority to help resolve the issue of the ten prisoners of war and had been in conversation with both the Russians and Ukrainians on the issue since April.

Saudi Arabia already has a relationship with Russia through the oil cartel Opec, but there is also a personal relationship between Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince, known by his initials as MBS.

The source explained that with Saudi Arabia taking a largely neutral stance in the Ukraine war, Moscow was more likely to listen to a Saudi request to release the 10 men than one coming from a Western leader.

The source did not rule out the possibility of building on the success of this release to look for further opportunities for Saudi Arabia to offer its connections as a mediator.

It is also possible, though, that Moscow now considers the Saudis owe them a favour for this release.

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