For some reason, Ukraine blocked the media coverage of prisoner swap, while the Russian media were allowed to the place of exchange. Political expert Volodymyr Katsman reported this to 112.ua. He also noted that such a ban for the media is introduced for the first time.
“You can recall the phrase by the head of the President’s Office, Andriy Bohdan, that the authorities do not need journalists. Therefore, the authorities artificially created conditions under which it is impossible to cover the exchange. The Russian media are all allowed and the Ukrainian ones are not. Why? What kind of privacy regime, if all it’ll become obvious, because I repeat - the Russian media are there, they will become the primary source of all the news. Why couldn’t it be possible to accredit the media and allow them, as happened before during the exchanges? Whose initiative is it? Mendel or Timoshenko? Bohdan or Zelensky?" – Katzman noted.
At the same time, as Vyacheslav Chechilo, the editor-in-chief of the Capital news agency, writes in his telegram channel, the so-called “Ombudsman of the DPR” Daria Morozova became the main source of exchange information over the past two days, and the Ukrainian authorities were unable to organize normal informing of journalists.
Earlier, the press center of the Joint Forces Operation refused to accredit journalists for the exchange of prisoners, which is due to take place on December 29 at the Mayorsk checkpoint. The head of the Staff, Vitaly Sarantsev, said that "the president’s apparatus will provide photos and video materials," since the Joint Forces Operation staff is not the organizer.
"The work of the press at this event is not provided. Unfortunately, we will not work, neither you. This is not our decision. We only provide this event - we provide technical assistance, medical care, security. Decisions are not made at the head of the environmental protection committee," Staff speaker said.
As we reported, At Normandy Four meeting in Paris, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin have so far agreed to hold another round of prisoners’ exchange. The deadline would be until December 31, 2019. President promised that by the end of 2019, 72 political prisoners could return to Ukraine.
Zelensky stated that the lists for the prisoners’ exchange with Russia in the format ‘all for all’ will be discussed on December 18 at Minsk Talks. Later, the video conference was delayed until December 23.
Prisoners’ exchange was hampered by the refusal of some detainees to return to Donbas, as media reported. A few dozens of people prepared for the return to occupied Donbas asked to exclude them from the exchange list due to the different reasons. So-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics accused Kyiv of delaying prisoner exchange negotiations.
The Council of Europe welcomed the agreement between the participants of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk on the exchange of prisoners between Kyiv and the occupied territories of Donbas in the "all-for-all" format.
On December 23, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko claims that the Minsk talks group has agreed on one group of prisoners to be exchanged between Kyiv and the self-proclaimed republics of Donbas. According to him, the Ukrainian side wants to bring back as many people as possible before the New Year's eve. This is why the OSCE coordinator made the decision to hold a video conference and complete the work on the lists.
This is the second prisoner swap between Ukraine and occupied Donbas. 74 Ukrainians were exchanged for 238 militants in December 2017.
Another prisoner exchange took place recently between Ukraine and Russia. In this swap, Oleg Sentsov, as well as many other prisoners, was able to return home.