Russian nationalists are furious as the Kremlin swaps more than 200 Azov prisoners for one of Vladimir Putin’s friends

Russian nationalists have accused their government of “treason” after the Kremlin released more than 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war in exchange for a friend of Vladimir Putin’s.

Ukraine’s President Olodymyr Zelenskyy said last night that he agreed to extradite Viktor Medvedchuk if Russia frees 200 Ukrainians who fought in Mariupol and the Azovstal Steelworks.

One of the most high-profile critics is Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya and once one of the Kremlin’s biggest supporters.

In a post on his Telegram channel, he condemned Putin for agreeing to an exchange on Ukrainian terms, saying: “Our fighters crushed fascists in Mariupol, drove them to Azovstal, smoked them from basements, died, were wounded and squeezed even that one Azov terrorist should have been unacceptable.

The news was met with anger by right-wing Russian war bloggers. Rybar, one of the most influential of the anonymous war bloggers, wrote: “Very happy to see free on the day the mobilization is announced those who will shoot at Russian soldiers again.”

Military Observer, a Telegram war channel, called it an “extremely odd and short-sighted decision” that would undermine the Kremlin’s justification for the mobilization.

Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, a former Russian officer, called the deal a “treason.”

One reason for the anger is that many of those released were from the Azov regiment, which Russian propaganda portrays as neo-Nazis and cites as justification for the invasion.

Viktor Medvedchuk is a Ukrainian businessman and politician who acted as an intermediary between Kyiv and Moscow. He is close to Putin, who is godfather to his youngest daughter. He was arrested last year for treason. He escaped house arrest but was found disguised as a Ukrainian soldier.

Meanwhile, Germany is preparing to take in Russian dissidents who refuse to fight in Ukraine after Putin’s mobilization sparked a mass exodus of military-age men.

The German government said it will continue to grant political asylum to war opponents as airfares from Russia have soared and border crossings with Finland and Georgia have been blocked.

Germany said it was ready to take in more people after Putin signaled 300,000 reservists could be called up.

Nancy Faeser, Interior Minister of Berlin, said: “Deserters who face serious reprisals can usually receive international protection in Germany.

“Anyone who courageously opposes Putin’s regime and faces great danger can apply for asylum because of political persecution.”

She said applicants are subjected to strict security checks.

(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Russian nationalists are furious as the Kremlin swaps more than 200 Azov prisoners for one of Vladimir Putin’s friends

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