Türkiye's release of Ukrainian neo-Nazis violates deal – Kremlin
Allowing former commanders of the neo-Nazi Azov regiment to return to Ukraine is a “direct violation” of the 2022 prisoner swap deal between Moscow and Kiev that also involved Türkiye, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday.
Earlier the same day, five previously-interned Azov commanders flew from Türkiye to Ukraine on board President Vladimir Zelensky’s plane. The Ukrainian leader hailed the development as a “return of heroes” and published a video on Facebook of the men boarding his aircraft. Zelensky was on a short visit to Türkiye on the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Both the Ukrainian and Turkish sides breached the provisions [of the deal] in this case,” Peskov said, commenting on the release. He also said that Moscow had not been duly informed of Ankara’s decision to hand over the five Ukrainians.
Türkiye was apparently “forced” to take this step ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, the Kremlin spokesman said, adding that the Turkish leadership had to demonstrate “solidarity” with the military bloc and that Moscow was “well aware” of that. “Yet, a breach of an agreement flatters no one,” Peskov stressed. Ankara has so far not commented.
Under the prisoner exchange agreement, reached in September 2022, five commanders, including top Azov leaders, were to stay in Türkiye until the end of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. At the time, President Zelensky explicitly stated that Kiev had agreed to that condition.
President Erdogan then offered protection to the five Ukrainians. All of them were captured by Russian forces and Donbass militias in spring 2022, following the lengthy siege of the Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol.