What would be the fate of 109 Ukrainian citizens held by Donbas militants

Author : Yaroslava Trehubova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine's representatives of Trilateral contact group believe that maximum number of Ukrainian hostages should be released before New Year holidays
10:06, 13 December 2016

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In turn, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during OSCE meeting, said that Moscow and LPR/DPR militants are ready for negotiations on the exchange of prisoners by the formula "all in all". According to him, Kyiv slows the exchange process by its reluctance to sit at the "negotiating table" with representatives of Donbas separatists.

The Ukrainian party calls such statements blackmail. Russia is using the hostages as a bargaining chip, summarizes Irina Gerashchenko, Ukraine’s representative in the humanitarian subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group.

"Moscow's tactics is clear and obvious, it is trying to force us to recognize the "republics", touching very delicate issues concerning hostages and their families that are cynically and actively involved in these processes," said Gerashchenko.

Related: Savchenko talks with militants leaders: Crisis of Minsk agreements

"My husband has been held in captivity since January 18, 2015. During that time, he has been always on the lists, but the exchange was constantly failed. Now there is hope that he might be released before the New Year," says Victoria Pantyushenko, wife of Ukrainian military Pantyushenko Bogdan, who was captured near the Donetsk airport. According to the wife, for more than five months there is no communication with the prisoners.

The dynamics of the negotiations is obvious

Negotiating process, which for a long time remained at an impasse, finally moved away, says the head of "Patriot" exchange group Oleg Kotenko.

Related: Donetsk militants hand over another 23 hostages

For the first time in a long time, Russia declared its readiness to conduct the exchange. However, it is likely to happen after the New Year, says the negotiator.

"After the last Minsk  talks, some progress is evident. At least they announced their willingness to conduct exchange. In any case, Ukraine is preparing to transfer those whom we promised to. But we want to bring back at least 42 people. Do we have time to do this before the New Year? Unlikely. There are many technical issues, if we do it at the beginning of (next) year, it will be a good result," said Kotenko.

"Gunpowder must be kept dry"

Politician and diplomat Roman Bezsmertnyi considers that this statement is Moscow’s manipulation.

Related: FSB organized a meeting of DPR/LPR leaders and Ukrainian MP Savchenko

"All Russia’s statements concerning the stunning developments in the implementation of the so-called Minsk agreements, typically wear a mask and tactical nature of some events. Active shelling is paralleled with the planned operations of arms supply to the occupied territories. I regard it as a piece of a tactical scheme. Christmas is comming, so you should expect a different kind of surprises along the contact line," said Bezsmertnyi.

The diplomat predicts: following Kremlin’s statement would be allegations of Kyiv in delaying the exchange process. Since the Russian side has submitted to the exchange list of persons who have been convicted in Ukraine as during the war and before the war. In order to release these persons, the parties must undergo the procedure, which lasts for months.


Related: It will be up to Savchenko how to plan her political activity, - Tymoshenko

"These statements and this aimless chatter will be heard by the time until the new administration in Washington starts its work, then we can hope for any serious steps, some action, and I think it will change and content and logic of the events," Bezsmertnyi noted.

Russia is trying to capitalize on the "painful" topic for the Ukrainians, notes political analyst, head of the single focal point "Donbas" Oleg Saakyan.  However, the expert says: negotiations with the separatists cannot be conducted, because after the last "cleansing" in the ranks of militants, leaders of the groups have become more controlled by the Kremlin, said Saakyan.

Related: OSCE Representative to visit occupied Donbas, meet Ukraine’s hostages

"Zakharchenko almost everywhere wears a flak jacket and does not remove it even when taking photos. This means that he fears for his life. Russian puppets realize they are a material, and their shelf life is coming to an end," says Saakyan.

"The last two weeks I monitor showdown between the self-proclaimed leaders. For example, Bolotov  was the "head" of the so-called "LPR" in the summer of 2014, now he said that while shelling in Luhansk was carried out by Plotnitsky’s Battalion. When we see such inside showdowns," says political analyst Olesya Yahno.

Related: Savchenko confirms her meeting with militants’ leaders in Minsk

Therefore, any meeting with the leaders of the so-called "republics" are contrary to the official, diplomatic positions of Ukraine, the analyst commented widespread media about a secret meeting of Savchenko with LPR/DPR leaders. "Even if such a meeting did not happen, Nadia Savchenko voiced her intensions to meet with representatives of the self-proclaimed republics. We remember the rallies with their mothers of the hostages,” noted Yahno.

She stressed that the most effective mechanism for release of hostages in question is international pressure on Russia.

We tried to ask Savchenko about the meeting, however, she preferred not to comment it.

"Please, follow what you have said"

Coordinator of the international human rights organization "LetMyPeopleGo" Maria Tomak notes that the Russian Minister Lavrov made a statement not just in terms of journalists and in the presence of international representatives, including the Foreign Minister of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Therefore, Ukraine should take advantage of it.

Related: Son of Mustafa Dzhemilev is fourth hostage, rescued from Russian Federation, - lawyer

"Like any statements of the Russian side, it should be divided into 10, but that does not mean that it is worth leaving it unattended. Why Lavrov called these three names (Sentsov, Klyh and Sushchenko - Ed.) is mystery to me. We should not forget about Putin's statement on categorical refusal conserning Sentsov. I think that the duty of Ukraine is immediately grasp it and by including the international community to demand. Please, follow what you have said," said Tomak.

According to her, the main task for Ukraine is disconnect humanitarian issues, release of the Kremlin hostages and prisoners of Donbas war from political issues and thereby deprive Russia possibility to manipulate.

Related: Militants hold 57 hostages, but compromise on their release was not reached, - Gerashchenko

According to the latest official figures of SBU, 109 Ukrainian citizens are held hostage by separatists in Donbas. The exact location of 57 hostages is known. According to NGOs, 36 Ukrainians are detained or convicted in Russia for political reasons, six Ukrainians were released.

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