Ukrainian military intelligence chief names main intermediary in prisoner swaps with Russia

The United Arab Emirates has surpassed Turkey as the primary intermediary in prisoner exchanges, according to Kirill Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence,

The United Arab Emirates has emerged as the main mediator between Kiev and Moscow regarding prisoner exchanges, Kirill Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, has claimed. He also supported a proposal put forward by Pope Francis, who last month called for a swap that would encompass all POWs from the two states.
Turkey was previously viewed as the top intermediary between Kiev and Moscow following the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022. The first attempt at peace negotiations took place in March of the same year in Istanbul. Russian President Vladimir Putin subsequently said the Ukrainian delegation had initially agreed to a number of Moscow’s terms during the talks, but then abruptly reneged on the deal.
In an interview with Germany’s ARD broadcaster published on Sunday, Budanov claimed that Ankara has ceased to play a central role in prisoner swaps, with the UAE taking its place. Commenting on the Pope’s initiative, the Ukrainian top spy said: “I fully support this. Let us do it. There remains only one little thing: to persuade Russia.” According to the official, Moscow has not demonstrated any interest in such a POW exchange.

The last publicly confirmed prisoner swap between Kiev and Moscow took place in early February, when the Russian Defense Ministry reported that a total of 100 Russian POWs had returned home as part of a deal mediated by the UAE.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Russian media last September that his country was ready to “play the role of mediator in issues such as the exchange of prisoners,” as well as in potential peace negotiations.
Russia and Ukraine have not sat at the negotiating table since the talks in Istanbul fell through. Moscow has repeatedly signaled its readiness to resolve the conflict through diplomacy. Moscow has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of refusing any meaningful dialogue, saying this has left it with no choice but to continue pursuing its goals on the battlefield.
According to revelations by David Arakhamia, Ukraine’s top negotiator in Istanbul, then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pressured Kiev to pull out of the talks at the time. Johnson has strongly denied any role in derailing the peace negotiations.