The Russian media has been discussing the “35 for 35” prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia that took place on Saturday, pointing out fundamental differences between the two countries. The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta presented a reaction to development.
“Those who are now talking about the different nature of the two states are correct. Today’s Russia is an empire and autocracy, whereas Ukraine is a democratic national state,” the article says.
Novaya Gazeta notes that the prisoner swap was welcomed by all, but was delayed for a long time due to the deterioration in relations between Putin and Ukraine’s previous president, Petro Poroshenko. The newspaper also notes that, before former Donetsk People’s Republic anti-air commander Vladimir Tsemakh was arrested, Ukraine did not have prisoners that could have motivated Russia to hand over 35 Ukrainians, including the sailors from the Kerch Strait incident and Oleh Sentsov.
According to Novaya Gazeta, virtually no one came to meet the pardoned Ukrainians and Russians who were sent back to Russia, since even relatives were not informed of exactly who would be returning, or when the plane would be arriving at Vnukovo International Airport. Even President Putin did not deign to go to the airport.
“Furthermore, the Russian news agencies presented a photograph of the released prisoners with blurred-out faces,” the newspaper writes.
The author of the article remarks that Russia so “values” its political prisoners that it does not even show their faces.
“Overall, whereas Ukraine had a national celebration, we once again had a special operation and an ‘instrument of geopolitics’,” the article states.
Novaya Gazeta compares the countries, observing that Russia distances itself from ordinary citizens and uses them as fuel for its larger state goals. On the other hand, the Ukrainians have elected a new leader who must justify the people’s votes.
“And so it’s not surprising if police truncheons strike citizens’ heads at the same time as an international forum on developing democracy in Europe organized on account of Moscow,” the author remarks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone on Saturday after the prisoner exchange had been completed.