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Dozens of soldiers freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said Saturday.

Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed.

He said the released POWs include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow’s monthslong siege that reduced the southern port city to ruins, as well as guerrilla fighters from the Kherson region and snipers captured during the ongoing fierce battles for the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Russian defense officials, meanwhile, announced that 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine following the swap, including some “special category” prisoners whose release was secured following mediation by the United Arab Emirates.

A statement issued Saturday by the Russian Defense Ministry did not provide details about these “special category” captives.

At least three civilians have been killed in Ukraine over the past 24 hours as Russian forces struck nine regions in the country’s south, north and east, according to reports on Ukrainian TV by regional governors on Saturday morning.

Two people were killed and 14 others wounded in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region by Russian shelling and missile strikes, local Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram update on Saturday morning.

The casualty toll included a man who was killed and seven others who were wounded Friday after Russian missiles slammed into Toretsk, a town in the Donetsk region. Kyrylenko said that 34 houses, two kindergartens, an outpatient clinic, a library, a cultural centre and other buildings were damaged in the strike.

Seven teenagers received shrapnel wounds after an anti-personnel mine exploded late on Friday in the northeastern city of Izium, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram. He said they were all hospitalized but their lives were not in danger.

Elsewhere, regional Ukrainian officials reported overnight shelling by Russia of border settlements in the northern Sumy region, as well as the town of Marhanets, which neighbors the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Kyiv has long accused Moscow of using the plant, which Russian forces seized early in the war, as a base for launching attacks on Ukrainian-held territory across the Dnieper river.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa and surrounding areas were plunged into the dark following a large-scale network failure, the country’s grid operator reported.

Ukrenergo said in a Telegram update that the failure involved equipment “repeatedly repaired” after Russia’s savage strikes on Ukraine’s energy grid, and that residents should brace themselves for lengthy blackouts.

“Unfortunately, the scale of the accident is quite significant, and this time, the power supply restrictions will be longer. It is not yet possible to determine a specific time when (power) will be fully restored,” the company said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the energy ministry was sending “all the powerful generators it has in stock” to Odesa “within 24 hours" and that both the Ukrainian energy minister and the head of Ukrenergo were on their way to Odesa to oversee repair works.

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