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Ukraine crisis: Prisoner exchange begins

28 December, 2017, 00:39 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels swap prisoners before New Year

Ukraine's government and Russia-backed separatists have completed a long-awaited exchange of prisoners near the town of Horlivka in eastern Ukraine.

The peace protocol called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine, as well as the release and exchange of all hostages and illegally held prisoners, dialogue on new local elections and the securing of Ukraine's eastern border with Russian Federation.

"Sixty more people are still there (in Kiev) who were not included into the first list and we have moved them to the second stage of exchange", said Daria Morozova, Human Rights Ombudsman for the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

Meanwhile, Zakharchenko suggested the exchange would use the "306 for 74" formula, meaning Ukraine would free 306 captured rebels while the pro-Russia militants would release 74 Ukrainian soldiers in exchange.

The swap was confirmed on Monday when the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, met with pro-Russia separatist leaders at Moscow's Danilovsky monastery.

Numerous captives are not combatants; some are activists and bloggers who were charged with spying or treason.

Separately, Viktor Medvedchuk, representative of Ukraine in the subgroup for humanitarian issues of the Trilateral Contact Group - a group also including the Russian Federation and the OSCE - said that 237 pro-Russia separatist hostages were handed over to the so-called Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

"Nothing is more important than to bring our people home", said Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had vowed on November 15 that he would do everything in his power to help the prisoner swap take place.

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine started in April 2014 after Russian Federation annexed Ukraine's Crimean penninsula.

The exact number of prisoners exchanged is uncertain. Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have since reported hundreds of ceasefire violations, and at least seven Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the past week.



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