13:25 24 May 2022

Zelensky: several thousand of our people are in captivity, and we have to release them

Photo: OPU

The most pressing humanitarian issues for Ukraine today are the exchange of prisoners

President Volodymyr Zelensky stated during an online discussion at the Ukrainian House in Davos.

The head of state also stressed that the urgent issues were the unblocking of Ukrainian ports and grain exports.

He named the search for Ukrainians illegally deported by the aggressor country.

"The first is the people exchange. Today, it is a humanitarian moment and a political decision that depends on the support of many states.

Several thousand of our people are in captivity after the blockade of Mariupol, Azovstal. Besides, there were people from Donbas. They are in captivity today.

These are courageous people to whom I'm immensely grateful. They did a great job. Confident, heroic, historical. We have to exchange them," the head of state stressed.

According to him, Ukraine has involved the UN, Switzerland, Israel, and many other countries in the exchange process.

They are trying to talk to russia.

However, the President says it's vital not to persuade russia but to put pressure on it.

"In no case can you toy with russia. You can't play with russia; you should press politically. Through closing businesses, through the oil embargo. Sanctions.

Through these threats, we have to achieve the exchange and increase the exchange of our people for the russian military," Volodymyr Zelensky said.

The second humanitarian problem is the impending global food crisis through russian-blocked Ukrainian ports.

"There will be a shortage of food because of the blockade of our country's ports. Today, russian federation has blocked 22 million tons of grain and fully controls the Black Sea and Azov coasts," he said.

The head of state is confident that the world's political and business elites must take measures to prevent food shortages.

"So that people have something to eat. That's how some countries' issues will be: there is nothing to eat. And we need to help them with that," he added.

Volodymyr Zelensky called the illegal deportation of Ukrainian citizens to russia the third significant humanitarian problem for which there's no practical solution yet.

"They forcibly imported about 500,000 people into russia or the occupied parts of Donbas. They were forcibly deported: children separately from their parents.

There are many such cases. We appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. They are looking for these people in places they have access. We are looking for them," Volodymyr Zelensky said.

According to him, it's challenging to establish the whereabouts of illegally deported Ukrainians. After all, passports, other documents, and telephone numbers are often seized from them.

"I can't find a format for solving this problem yet. I want to draw the attention of the international community to this issue. And I would like to bring people home or get information about their whereabouts," he said.

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