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Ukraine’s human rights commissioner accused Russia on Thursday of refusing to agree new exchanges of prisoners of war after a stretch of three months in which no swaps have been reported.

Kyiv and Moscow have held many prisoner swaps since the early months of Russia’s invasion in February 2022. But their intensity dropped in 2023 and the last one took place in early August.

“Exchanges don’t happen because Russia doesn’t want them to,” said Dmytro Lubinets, the human rights ombudsman who has regularly had a role in prisoner exchanges in the past.

“All the initiatives, desires and actions of Ukraine regarding the return of our defenders from captivity are met by a Russian unwillingness to return its citizens,” he said on Telegram messenger.

Ukraine, Russia swap prisoners; bodies of British volunteers returned

He added that Russian prisoners held in Ukraine had expressed a wish to be exchanged.

“No one from the Russian side wants to take them back,” he said.

The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In November, the Ukrainian government said it had registered 3,574 Ukrainian military and 763 civilians taken into Russian or Moscow-backed separatists’ captivity since 2014.

The figure included those who have already returned to Ukraine, it said. However, it said the numbers did not show all the current prisoners.

Ukraine has already brought back 2,598 people from Russian captivity during 48 swaps, the Strategic Communications Department of the Armed Forces said on Tuesday.

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