Ukrainian official says US citizen Suedi Murekezi freed in prisoner exchange with Russia

An aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/LIBKOS)

U.S. citizen Suedi Murekezi was freed alongside dozens of Ukrainian soldiers from Russian-occupied territory in a prisoner swap, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top aide.

Andriy Yermak, who heads the Ukrainian presidential office, said the country secured the release of Murekezi, 64 soldiers and five slain Ukrainians.

“Another exchange of prisoners,” Yermak wrote on Telegram. “We continue to return ours.”

Murekezi’s brother told The Guardian that Murekezi was arrested in June in Kherson, a regional capital of Ukraine that Russia occupied at the time but has since retreated from. 

Murekezi, a Rwandan-born U.S. national who had previously served in the Air Force, had moved to Ukraine about four years ago and did not participate in any fighting, his family told the British newspaper.

But Murekezi was imprisoned in Donetsk, an eastern Ukrainian city in territory Russia illegally annexed in the fall, for allegedly participating in pro-Ukrainian protests, according to The Guardian.

Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported in August that Murekezi was charged with inciting ethnic hatred.

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Murekezi’s release comes days after the Biden administration announced a prisoner swap that freed WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for an infamous Russian arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death.”

Griner had been detained at a Moscow-area airport on charges of possessing vape cartridges with hashish oil. 

The U.S. considered her wrongfully imprisoned and worked for months to secure her release.

Tags Andriy Yermak Andriy Yermak Brittney Griner prisoner swap russia Russia-Ukraine war Suedi Murekezi ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky

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