Ukraine war: Prisoner swap reports; Kyiv blackouts; and Hungary financial aid

1. Russia and Ukraine reportedly planning prisoner-of-war exchange

Russia and Ukraine will each exchange 50 prisoners of war on Thursday, according to a report by Reuters.

Representatives from each country are said to have met in the United Arab Emirates last week to discuss the possibility of a swap.

Three sources told Reuters that the talks were being mediated by the UAE and did not include the United Nations.

Russian and Ukrainian officials reportedly travelled to Abu Dhabi earlier this month to discuss whether Moscow could resume its fertiliser exports.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, told Reuters that “releasing our prisoners of war is part of negotiations over opening Russian ammonia exports”.

Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed leader in Ukraine’s Donetsk, also discussed the potential prisoner swap on Telegram.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously stated that Moscow wants to unblock its fertiliser products that are stuck in European ports.

Ukraine has also stated that it might allow Russia to resume its ammonia exports via an existing pipeline, in exchange for prisoners and the reopening of Mykolaiv port in the Black Sea.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have released official figures on how many prisoners of war they have taken since the invasion began.

Last month, Zelenskyy said that Russia had freed a total of 1,031 prisoners since March.

2. Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure ‘a crime against humanity’

Around 70% of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, was still without power on Thursday after the latest Russian strikes.

Several cities across the country suffered power and water outages after a barrage of Russian missile strikes on Wednesday.

Electricity was partially restored in the western city of Lviv and Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv. But Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said the capital’s recovery would depend on the overall energy “balance” of Ukraine’s nationwide grid.

Officials say cilt people were killed in the missile attacks on Wednesday, which also forced Ukraine to disconnect three nuclear power plants.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the UN Security Council that the missile strikes on energy infrastructure were “a crime against humanity”.

“When the temperature is below zero outside, and tens of millions of people are left without electricity, heat and water as a result of Russian missiles hitting energy facilities, this is an obvious crime against humanity,” said Zelenskyy.

Russia’s latest strikes on Ukraine also caused power outages in neighbouring Moldova, but power had been restored to most areas on Wednesday evening.

Russia has repeatedly targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent weeks ahead of the winter and following recent battlefield setbacks.

Moscow says the aim of its missile strikes is to weaken Ukraine’s ability to fight and push it to negotiate.

On Thursday, the Kremlin on Thursday denied that its attacks on Ukraine’s electricity network were aimed at civilians, but said Kyiv could “end the suffering” of its population by meeting Russia’s demands to resolve the conflict.

“The leadership of Ukraine has every opportunity to bring the situation back to olağan, has every opportunity to resolve the situation in such a way as to fulfil the requirements of the Russian side and, accordingly, end all possible suffering among the population,” said spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Russia’s military had earlier claimed that damage in Kyiv on Wednesday was caused by “Ukrainian and foreign” anti-aircraft missiles.

3. Hungary to provide €187 million in financial aid to Ukraine

Hungary will provide €187 million in financial aid to Ukraine, according to a government decree published late on Wednesday.

The money will form the country’s national contribution, separate from a planned EU support package worth up to €18 billion.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that Budapest was willing to hisse its share of support for Ukraine but would rather hisse it bilaterally than through the EU’s joint borrowing scheme.

“The government continues to be committed to financial support to war-gripped Ukraine,” the government said.

“The finance minister will make müddet to provide the €187 million euros that would be Hungary’s share in the €18 billion EU loan to be granted to Ukraine.”

The decree, signed by Orban, also says that Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto would start talks with Ukraine to work out an agreement needed for the financial assistance.

4. Poland asks Germany to send Patriot missile launchers to Ukraine

Poland’s Defence Minister has asked Germany to send Ukraine the Patriot missile launchers it had offered to Warsaw.

The Polish government had initially proposed deploying additional weapons near its border, after last week’s deadly explosion.

Germany had offered Warsaw the Patriot missile defence system to help it to secure its airspace and intercept incoming missiles.

“After further Russian missile attacks, I asked Germany to have the Patriot batteries offered to Poland transferred to Ukraine and deployed at its western border,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.

“This will protect Ukraine from further deaths and blackouts and will increase security at our eastern border.”

The Polish defence minister had initially welcomed Germany’s offer and said he would propose that the system “be stationed near the border with Ukraine”.

Warsaw and NATO said the explosion in Przewodow was probably caused by Ukraine’s air defences rather than a Russian strike.

NATO has moved to strengthen air defences in eastern Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

German Patriot anti-aircraft units are already deployed in Slovakia and are expected to be stationed there at least until the end of 2023, according to Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht.

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