KYIV, Ukraine — As Russia and Ukraine trade accusations over this week's crash of a Russian military transport plane, one thing is clear: families' fears that future prisoner exchanges may be in danger and loved ones could stay imprisoned.
Even the basic facts are being debated. Russian officials accused Kyiv of shooting down the plane Wednesday and claimed that 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war were on board as they headed for a prisoner swap. The Ukrainian side said it had no evidence of POWs and that Russia is just playing with Ukrainians' psyche. It did say, however, that an exchange had been due to take place on Wednesday.
Neither side provided evidence for their accusations, leaving the relatives and loved ones in vulnerable states with no answers. Many Ukrainians were already in distress before the incident and had heard nothing from their loved ones in captivity for months.
Yevheniia Synelnyk's brother has been in captivity for over a year and a half. She cried and worried through Wednesday as conflicting items appeared on the news.
“You don't understand which of these is true,” she said.
The next day, exhaustion set in.
“There is no strength left to shed tears,” she said in a tired voice.
Synelnyk is also a representative of the Association of Azovstal Defenders' Families, which was created in June of 2022, shortly after around 2,500 Ukrainian servicemen surrendered to Russia on the orders of the Ukrainian…