Russia and Ukraine announced the exchange of hundreds of prisoners of war on Wednesday, resuming the carefully choreographed trading of captives only a week after Moscow accused Kyiv of shooting down a Russian military transport plane that it said was carrying dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war on their way to be exchanged.
The cause of the crash, which occurred in Russia’s Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine last week, remains unknown. Ukrainian officials have neither confirmed nor denied responsibility, have called for an international investigation and said that the Russians had offered no conclusive evidence that prisoners were on the flight.
After the crash, families of Ukrainian prisoners worried publicly that the episode might imperil one of the few diplomatic channels left between the two countries, making it less likely that they would see their loved ones again.
But the process of exchanging prisoners, while at times slowed down, has endured even during the most trying moments of a war that has stretched on for nearly two years.
The trade on Wednesday was the 50th exchange between the two nations since the war began, and more than 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have returned home, according to Ukrainian officials. While Russia has not disclosed a total number, at least 1,200 soldiers have been returned, according to statements by the country’s officials.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who announced the trade in a statement on social media, said 207 soldiers and civilians had been returned. The returnees range in age from 20 to 61.
“We return in spite of everything,” Mr. Zelensky wrote in the statement. “We remember each and every captive.”
Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said that 36 of the returned Ukrainians had “injuries or serious illnesses.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that 195 of its soldiers had been returned and would be transferred for medical care. The ministry said that an equal number of Ukrainians had been returned. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy between its figures and those announced by Mr. Zelensky. It also noted the role of the United Arab Emirates in helping broker the deal.
The relationship between Russia and the Emirates has grown closer in recent years, with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia making a high-profile visit to the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi, in December.
The exchange, however, offered no immediate clues about the mystery surrounding the downed Russian airplane or about whether Ukrainian prisoners were onboard, as Russia claims.
The Ukrainian news media reported that none of the people returned on Wednesday were on a list of 65 prisoners the Russians claimed were killed in the crash.
Neither side has presented evidence about the crash, even as they have highlighted the incident as proof of the other side’s malign intent.
Speaking at a meeting with his supporters on Wednesday in Moscow, Mr. Putin said that Russian investigators “had established it exactly” that the plane was shot down using the American Patriot air defense system. Last week, he said that he did not know whether the Ukrainians had deliberately shot down the plane knowing that their own soldiers were onboard, but that it was still a crime.
Ukraine has been stepping up its assaults inside Russia and often publicly acknowledging attacks on military targets. After the plane crashed, the Ukrainians asserted a right to shoot down Russian military planes in the border region and said that Russia had not informed them that a plane carrying prisoners would be flying in the area. But it has stopped short of taking responsibility for shooting down the plane. Russia has said that Ukraine was informed about the flight.
Ukrainian officials have said it is strange that a week after the crash, Russia has not released any visual evidence of the bodies of Ukrainian prisoners it claims were killed in the crash.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, has said that the Ukrainians do not have a full understanding of who was on the plane, but that the way the Russians have handled the episode raised many questions.
“If it happened as Russia claims, why did Russia hide the bodies for several days and why is it still hiding them?” he said. “It should have shown them to the whole world: ‘Look, the Ukrainians are murderers.’ But there are no bodies — there is nothing.”
Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.