Both Ankara and Kiev have broken a 2022 prisoner exchange agreement with Moscow, Dmitry Peskov has said © Getty Images/Karen Kasmauski

Allowing former commanders of the neo-Nazi Azov regiment to return to Ukraine is a “direct violation” of a 2022 prisoner swap deal between Moscow and Kiev that also involved Türkiye, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday.

Earlier the same day, the five previously interned Azov commanders flew from Türkiye to Ukraine aboard President Vladimir Zelensky’s plane. The Ukrainian leader hailed the development as a “return of heroes” and published a video of the five men boarding his aircraft on Facebook. Zelensky had arrived in Türkiye on a short visit after an invitation by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Both the Ukrainian and Turkish sides breached the provisions [of the deal] in this case,” Peskov said, commenting on the developments. He also said that Moscow had not been duly informed of Ankara’s decision to hand over the five Ukrainians.

Türkiye was apparently “forced” to take this step ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, the Kremlin spokesman said, adding that the Turkish leadership had to demonstrate “solidarity” with the military bloc and that Moscow was “well aware” of that. “Yet, a breach of an agreement flatters no one,” the official stressed. Ankara has so far not commented on the developments.

Under a major prisoner exchange agreement reached in September 2022, five commanders, including top Azov leaders, were to stay in Türkiye until the end of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. At that time, Zelensky himself explicitly stated that Kiev had agreed to that condition.

Erdogan then offered the five Ukrainians protection. All of them were captured by the Russian forces and Donbass militias in spring 2022 following the lengthy siege of the Azovstal steel plant in the Azov Sea port city of Mariupol. (RT)