Ukraine announced that it had secured the release 64 Ukrainians and one U.S. citizen in its latest prisoner swap with Russian forces on Wednesday.
“64 soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces who fought in the Donetsk and Luhansk sectors are going home,” the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak tweeted.
“It was also possible to free a U.S. citizen who helped our people — Suedi Murekezi.”
Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported that Murekezi was arrested in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine in June and charged with attending anti-Russian protests and inciting “ethnic hatred.”
Citing his lawyer, TASS said Murekezi was born in Rwanda and moved to the United States with his family in 1994. The lawyer said Murekezi worked in a nightclub in Kherson city and denied that his client had been a combatant.
Russian forces captured Kherson city soon after they invaded Ukraine in February, but Ukrainian troops retook the city this autumn, since when it has been subjected to frequent bouts of Russian shelling.
Ukrainian officials say the epicenter of fighting since Kherson’s recapture has been the Donetsk region where Russian forces have for months been trying to capture the city of Bakhmut.