Ukrainian Zelenskiy urges allies to pressure Moscow for prisoner swap


(Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday night kyiv was ready for a prisoner swap with Russia “even tomorrow” and called on his allies to put pressure on Moscow.

“The exchange of people – it’s a humanitarian issue today and a very political decision that depends on the support of many states,” Zelenskiy said in a video Q&A with the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“It is important … to exert pressure politically at all levels, through powerful companies, through the closure of businesses, the oil embargo … and through these threats actively intensify the exchange of our people against Russian soldiers.

“We don’t need the Russian military, we only need our own,” Zelenskiy said. “We are ready for an exchange tomorrow.”

Zelenskiy said Ukraine involved the United Nations, Switzerland, Israel and “many, many countries,” but the process was very complicated.

Several thousand people are in captivity following Russia’s capture of the port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine and following the battle in the eastern Donbass region, he said.

Russia sent thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24 for what it calls a “special operation” aimed at demilitarizing its neighbor and rooting out dangerous nationalists – claims dismissed by kyiv and Western countries as false pretexts for land grabbing.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have attempted to encircle Ukrainian forces and entirely capture the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk that make up the Donbass region, where Moscow supports separatist fighters.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Himani Sarkar)