Ukraine is blaming Russia for the lack of prisoner swaps between the two warring countries over the past few months.
Since the early months of the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, Kyiv and Moscow have carried out many prisoner swaps, but their frequency has fallen this year, with no swaps since August.
“Exchanges don’t happen because Russia doesn't want them to,” Dmytro Lubinets, Ukraine’s human rights commissioner, said on Thursday.
“All the initiatives, desires and actions of Ukraine regarding the return of our defenders from captivity are met by a Russian unwillingness to return its citizens,” Lubinets added on Telegram.
Lubinets also said that Russian prisoners of war held in Ukraine have said they want to be exchanged, but “no one from the Russian side wants to take them back,” the Ukrainian official added.
In Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's nightly address on Thursday, he called for quicker construction of fortifications in key front-line areas of eastern Ukraine, which is under pressure from the Russian army.
"In all major sectors where reinforcement is needed, there should be a boost and an acceleration in the construction of structures," Zelenskyy said.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby on Thursday said the United States is working with Ukraine to prepare for Russia's expected winter attack.
Washington predicts Russia will attempt to target Ukraine's critical energy infrastructure this winter, Kirby said, so the United States is supplying equipment to help people avoid losing heat and electricity.
Meanwhile, Russian missiles pounded Ukraine’s Donetsk region overnight into Thursday, as concerns grew about more intense attacks from Russia as weather conditions improve.
Ten people were wounded in the missile attacks, including four children. Five other people were trapped in rubble, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said Thursday.
In Pokrovsk, Klymenko said a six-month-old baby was wounded alongside boys aged 13 and 16.
"One of the shells exploded in the yard of a house where a family with two children lived. As a result of the shelling, the roof and walls of the house were destroyed, and the family was buried under the rubble," he added.
An apartment block, nine private houses, a police station, cars and garages were also damaged.
The Donetsk industrial region, which Russia claims to have annexed last year, has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the two-year conflict.
Russia's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its forces had taken control of the village of Khromove, which Russia calls Artyomovskoe.
Wednesday, a day after addressing the intense fighting in the Donetsk region, Zelenskyy said he had met with military commanders and government officials in the southern part of the country, hit hard by a recent storm.
He said he had instructed government officials “to increase the number of repair crews and equipment to promptly restore electricity supply to people. If necessary, the State Emergency Service personnel and power engineers from other regions that have not experienced such problems with the weather will be brought in.”
Repairs are being made to Odesa’s boiler facility, which was damaged by severe weather.
Weather conditions are improving in the country this week, which is allowing Russia to ramp up its assaults, according to Ukrainian army spokesman Oleksandr Shtupun.
"The enemy has doubled its artillery fire and airstrikes. It has also intensified ground infantry attacks, and is using armored vehicles," he said.
Oleksandr Tarnavsky, a Ukrainian commander, said Russia had "significantly increased" its activity around the town of Avdiivka.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that Ukraine will now have to wait until 2024 before it receives its first large shipment of rocket-propelled precision bombs. The United States has adapted the bombs to be capable of striking at a range of nearly 160 kilometers.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.