Mothers of Ukrainian POWs call for their release

STORY: Ukraine and Russia carried out an unexpected prisoner swap on Wednesday (September 21), the largest since the war began and involving almost 300 people, including 10 foreigners and commanders of Ukraine's defence of Mariupol earlier this year.

But the fate of many Ukrainian prisoners of war still remains unknown.

Nataliya Bets, 42, said her son, Ukrainian serviceman Maksym, is in captivity and that she has lost contact with him.

“Honestly, I stayed up until morning, waiting to hear at least something about my child. Or about the 57th (brigade). To have hope. But we were not given any hope in the end,” Bets said.

She came to the rally together with her 10-year-old son, Artem, who held up a photo of his brother.

Other protesters also brought photos of their relatives and made posters with the names of the brigades they served in.

“I can’t sleep, I can’t live, my hands are tied. I have three small children on my hands, but I feel like a vegetable,” said another mother, Olena Marakhovska.

Kateryna Mykhailnyuk, 47, wore a T-shirt with a picture of her son on it, Ukrainian serviceman Serhii Mykhailnyuk.

“I haven’t seen my child for five and a half months, I don’t know how he is doing,” Mykhailnyuk said.