The issue of releasing Ukrainian civilians from Russian captivity is more complicated than the exchange of prisoners of war, so in this process, our state counts on the help of the international community, which can force Russia to release Ukrainian captives. This was stated by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a conversation with media representatives on the occasion of Journalist's Day.
"We have returned 2,500 people, including about 370 children and about 150 civilians (adults - ed.). That is, 550 people out of 2500 are children and civilians. These are the people we managed to return," the Head of State said.
As the President noted, the difficulty of returning civilians from captivity is that Ukraine does not have as many Russian civilians to exchange for Ukrainian citizens as it does in the case of POW exchanges.
At the same time, he emphasized that the work on the release of civilian Ukrainians from Russian captivity is ongoing - this is a separate track within the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
"Lubinets is more involved with the issue of civilians there. And now a center for the return of our children has been established. There is a very powerful program there. They have already returned more than 300 children. This is a different track. They are all one team, but those are different tracks," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
According to the President, Ukraine's international partners are also involved in the process of liberating Ukrainian captives. In particular, Türkiye is assisting in the release of prisoners of war, and Saudi Arabia is also involved.
"The Turkish side knows that the issue of Crimean Tatars is theirs... I talked to them even before the full-scale invasion, when I had my first visit to Türkiye, I met Erdoğan, and then I brought him a list of all Crimean political prisoners. Then I updated it. He has this list. He promised to help me. We will see the result," the Head of State noted.
According to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, those who have influence on Russia should be involved in the release of civilian Ukrainians from captivity.
"Today, the Pope's representative from the Vatican was here, and I asked him to deal with the issue of children, to help in the return of our children. I also discussed this topic with China. If they have some powerful economic relations with Russia, or religious or political relations, such people can influence the return of children and civilians," the President said.
He also expressed his belief that a potentially powerful platform for the release of civilians from Russian captivity could be the Ukrainian Peace Formula, which, through global pressure on Russia, could achieve, for example, an exchange of prisoners in the "all-for-all" format, the return of all illegally deported Ukrainian children, civilian or political prisoners.
The Head of State emphasized that all humanitarian issues can be resolved when Russia becomes weaker.
"And it is getting weaker every day, and we see it. They are no longer able to occupy us - today we are talking about the de-occupation of our territories. Every day, this will have an impact on the strength of Putin and his entourage, on the strength within the state. All this will have a great impact," Volodymyr Zelenskyy summarized.