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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK: DEC. 25 – 29

So much awaited POW exchange, Saakashvili case, no truce in Donbas combat area - major Ukrainian events of the week on one page
22:30, 29 December 2017

POW exchange

Developments in the conflict zone of Donbas

Saakashvili case

National Police reports year’s results 

Catholic Christmas

112 Agency

POW exchange - 73 Ukrainians are back in Ukraine from Donbas

Ukraine and pro-Kremlin militants exchanged prisoners of war on December 27. Ukraine transferred 237 detained of 306 planned to pro-Russian militants.

Ukraine transferred 237 detained prisoners out of 306 to the pro-Russian militants because they refused to return to the occupied Donbas during the exchange,  with ex-mayor of Toretsk Sleptsov among them - he hid in journalists’ bus and decided not to return to militants.

For more than a year Ukraine has been expecting for this exchange. Negotiations have been often disrupted, militants agreed to conduct the exchange and then refused.

Related: Two years of captivity: Famous Ukrainian scientist held hostage in Donetsk

Poroshenko met released Ukrainians near Kramatorsk. Apart from the President, Minister of Defense Stepan Poltorak, Ombudsman  Valeriya Lutkovska, MP  Iryna Gerashchenko, and Ambassador of France Isabelle Dumont were also meeting the released captives.

73 people returned to Ukraine and began receiving medical aid.

Over 400 Ukrainians are still considered missing.

Viktor Medvedchuk, the representative of Ukraine in the Trilateral Contact Group claimed that Ukraine can exchange 74 prisoned militants for 29 detained Ukrainians within the next prisoners’ exchange.

Related: “The guys slimmed down, their teeth fell out”: relatives of released POWs tell about their health and plans

 

Developments in the conflict zone of Donbas

Traditionally, the situation in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine appeared to be one of the most discussed topics of this week. Apart from the major news about the POW exchange, another thing or two proved to be interesting for the wide audience.

On December 27, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoriy Karasin said that his country would not tolerate the presence of UN peacekeepers in Donbas. He claimed that Moscow stands only for the conferring of the peacekeepers with the powers to protect the OSCE SMM observers and it will not allow the creation of some external administration at the part of the Ukrainian-Russian border.

Karasin also added that Russia can return its military to the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) if Kyiv changes the attitude and guarantees the conditions of their work. ‘There is nothing impossible in our life but it is necessary to change the attitude of Kyiv for this, to make the conditions guaranteed and not dependable from some Ukrainian politician. It should be internationally confirmed code of the attitude towards our officers. I think that theoretically, it is possible’, Karasin claimed. According to him, the Russian officers from the JCCC were humiliated and derogated from their rights in the common issues and human interaction. As is known, last week, Russia decided to withdraw its representatives from the Joint Center for Control and Coordination in Donbas.

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine crossed over to the strengthened work regime for New Year and Christmas holidays at the border and demarcation line in the zone of the armed Donbas Conflict as the press service of the service reported. According to the State Border Guard Service, the number of the duties was increased and the forces of the National Police and local authorities were involved in the provision of the security.

 

Saakashvili case

Mikheil Saakashvili, the leader of the Rukh Novykh Syl party (New Forces Movement), ex-head of Odesa Regional State Administration, was to be interrogated by the Security Service on Tuesday. However, he refused to communicate with judges and investigators and instead made his traditional briefing for the media. Mikheil Saakashvili refused to come into the building of the SBU for the questioning. This decision was explained that two investigative actions (questioning and expert study) are stated in the summons and it is the violation of the legislation as the advocates claimed.

The lawyers passed the registered document to the SBU and noted that they will definitely come for the investigative actions when each of them will take place separately.

By the end of law enforcers confirmed the originality of the voices in the recorded talks between Mikheil Saakashvili and Serhy Kurchenko. The spokeswoman of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine noted that about 15 people that record the crime of Mikheil Saakashvili, Serhy Kurchenko, Oleksandr Dynnyk, Severion Danhadze were questioned as the witnesses and stay under the defense of the state.

National Police reports year’s results 

Serhiy Kniazev, the Chief of the National Police of Ukraine, had a press conference on the results of 2017. 

  • 1,400 law enforcers were wounded during mass events in 2017;
  • 72,000 events took place in Ukraine and the clashes were in 700 of them;
  • 72,000 events took place in Ukraine and 28 million of citizens participated in them;
  • the number of the solved crimes grew by 40,000 cases – compared to the index reached in 2016;
  • 500 490 registered violations in 2017 compared to 562, 372 cases in 2016;

“We confirm that the quantitative crime rate has not changed over the year – which was exactly our official forecast in early 2017. We actually expected the crime rate to grow. And these numbers prove the efficiency of our work. This year, we sent to the court 40,000 cases more than we did previous year,’ he said.

 

Catholic Christmas

This year was the first one when Ukraine celebrated the Catholic Christmas officially. Starting this year, December 25 becomes a public holiday, while the day off on May 2 (second day of celebration of the Labour Day) was canceled. 

On Dec. 24, Kyiv hosted festivities for the Catholic Christmas Eve under the name “Ukraine and the world celebrate Christmas together”. In particular, there was a competition of Christmas carol performance among families, as well as a concert featuring Ukrainian performers.

On the Christmas Eve, Pope Francis called for releasing all abducted people, including priests, monks, and laypeople, as he said in a traditional sermon in Vatican. He also prayed for "the gift of peace for the whole world, especially for populations suffering the most because of conflicts underway".

A big part of Pope’s address focused on the refugees. Many migrants, he said, were being forced to flee from leaders who "see no problem in shedding innocent blood".

While the Pope’s Mass was underway, activists of Ukrainian feminist group Femen held a protest at the Vatican Nativity scene. A bare-chested woman posed as Virgin Mary in front of the nativity scene, with Me Too and Assaulted by the church written on her body. Femen explained that the protest called for legalizing abortions around the globe, investigating the cases of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church, rights of the LGBT, and the Church not standing in the way of legalizing gay marriage in France.

Related: Ukrainian band Onuka performs cover version of famous Ukrainian carol at airport

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