Up to 20 Ukrainian soldiers could be freed in exchange for the removal of restrictions against his family, Ramzan Kadyrov says
The head of Russia’s Chechnya Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, has proposed releasing up to 20 Ukrainian servicemen, but only if Kiev’s Western backers lift sanctions imposed against his family in return. The Ukrainian soldiers had previously been captured by the Chechen units fighting in Donbass.
Washington placed restrictions on the leader’s family members – including his wife and daughters – as early as 2020, accusing the Chechen authorities of “gross human rights violations.” Kadyrov had expressed his bemusement at the decision at the time by saying his children had nothing to do with anything.
In August 2023, the US also imposed financial restrictions and a travel ban on Aymani Kadyrova – the Chechen leader’s mother. According to Washington, she was sanctioned because she was the head of the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation, which the US claimed was involved in the “re-education” of Ukrainian children evacuated by Russia from the war zone. Kadyrov said he was shocked by the move, adding that he would never forgive Washington for this step.
On Friday, Kadyrov said he was ready to release 20 Ukrainian servicemen in exchange for lifting sanctions on everyone in his family except himself. The Chechen leader has been blacklisted by the US and the EU since he was first sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act in 2017.
“We have POWs that we have taken in the Donetsk and Lugansk [People’s Republics],” he said at the Chechen security forces roll call in Grozny. “If [Western nations] lift the sanctions against my mother, my daughters, innocent people and horses, except for me … we will hand [the Ukrainians] over.”
He also gave a list of the POWs to Scott Ritter – a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer who later served as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty in the USSR and worked as a chief weapons inspector with the UN in Iraq between 1991 and 1998. Ritter was visiting Grozny after local authorities organized a trip for him to the city’s Russian Special Forces University.
Neither Ukraine nor the West has so far commented on Kadyrov’s proposal.
Moscow and Kiev have regularly exchanged POWs throughout the conflict, although major prisoner swaps have been rare in the past few months. The biggest one took place shortly after New Year’s Eve and included 248 Russian service members and 230 Ukrainian personnel. The deal was the result of a “complex negotiation process” facilitated by the “humanitarian mediation” of the United Arab Emirates, the Russian military said.
The previous public POW swap was in early August 2023, and involved 22 soldiers from each side. Before that, a major prisoner exchange took place in June 2023 and involved swapping 94 Russian servicemen for 95 Ukrainian fighters.