Power restored to critical infrastructure in Ukraine's Odesa region after 'significant' accident
Ukraine and Russia traded almost 200 prisoners of war in a swap announced separately by both sides on Saturday, with the bodies of two British volunteers also being sent back to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said 116 Ukrainians were returned, while Russian news agencies cited Moscow's Defence Ministry saying 63 Russian POWs had been freed.
Yermak said the bodies of volunteer aid workers Andrew Bagshaw and Chris Parry had been sent back to Ukraine. Bagshaw, 47, a dual New Zealand-British citizen, and British volunteer Parry, 28, were killed during an attempted humanitarian evacuation in Eastern Ukraine in January, Parry's family said.
The pair were trying to rescue an elderly woman from the town of Soledar, in Donetsk region, where heavy fighting was taking place, when their car was hit by an artillery shell, their families said.
Yermak wrote on Telegram that the released POWs from Ukraine include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow's months-long siege that reduced the southern port city to ruins, as well as guerrilla fighters from the Kherson region and snipers captured during the ongoing fierce battles for the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Russian defence officials, meanwhile, announced that 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine following the swap, including some "special category" prisoners whose release was secured following mediation by the United Arab Emirates.
A statement issued Saturday by the Russian Defence Ministry did not provide details about these "special category" captives.
Another big POWs swap. We managed to get back 116 of our people. Those are the defenders of Mariupol, Kherson partisans, snipers from Bakhmut vicinities, and other heroes of ours. <a href="https://t.co/DQFtjPC4E6">pic.twitter.com/DQFtjPC4E6</a>
At least three civilians have been killed in Ukraine over the past 24 hours as Russian forces struck nine regions in the country's south, north and east, according to reports on Ukrainian TV by regional governors on Saturday morning.
Two people were killed and 14 others wounded in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region by Russian shelling and missile strikes, local Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram update on Saturday morning.
The casualty toll included a man who was killed and seven others who were wounded Friday after Russian missiles slammed into Toretsk, a town in the Donetsk region. Kyrylenko said that 34 houses, two kindergartens, an outpatient clinic, a library, a cultural centre and other buildings were damaged in the strike.
Seven teenagers received shrapnel wounds after an anti-personnel mine exploded late on Friday in the northeastern city of Izium, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram. He said they were all hospitalized but their lives were not in danger.
The Ukrainian port city of Odesa on Saturday restored power to critical infrastructure after a fire broke out at an overloaded substation, leaving nearly 500,000 people without electricity, a top official said.
The blaze, which erupted earlier in the day, is a new blow to the country's ailing energy grid that has been hammered by Russian strikes for months.
Power to all critical infrastructure has been restored. The city will therefore have water and heat," Ukraine Energy Minister German Galushchenko wrote on Facebook late in the day.
"About a third of the city's consumers now have lighting," he said, without giving precise details. Thirty-one high-power generators are on their way to the city, he added.
"The situation is difficult, the scale of the accident is significant," Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal wrote on Telegram earlier in the day.
Shmyhal said he had ordered Ukraine's foreign ministry to appeal to Turkey to send power ships — vessels that carry power plants — to help the city.
Officials said repairs could take weeks.
Since October, Moscow has waged a campaign of massive missile attacks on energy infrastructure. Moscow says the strikes aim to reduce Ukraine's ability to fight; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians.
Elsewhere, regional Ukrainian officials reported overnight shelling by Russia of border settlements in the northern Sumy region, as well as the town of Marhanets, which neighbours the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Kyiv has long accused Moscow of using the plant, which Russian forces seized early in the war, as a base for launching attacks on Ukrainian-held territory across the Dnipro River.
With files from Reuters
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