"The return of our soldiers and all the soldiers who fought and are fighting for the right to live of the people of the LPR and DPR is the main thing for us," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The POW exchange between Russia and Ukraine took place on Wednesday. A total of 144 Ukrainian soldiers were returned for an equal number of Russian soldiers, including Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics fighters.
Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said that "the lives, the health, the release of our servicemen, the fighters of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, who make up the majority of those returned, is the most important task."
The Russian Defense Ministry said President Vladimir Putin had authorized the operation. Konashenkov said the exchange was "organized and carried out on the direct orders of the supreme commander of the Russian Armed Forces."
Among the released soldiers are 95 Azovstal defenders, including 43 servicemen from the Azov Regiment, Kiev said.