Two years ago, on December 27, 2017, the largest exchange of held persons between Ukraine and the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic took place. Then Kyiv, Donetsk and Lugansk agreed on the release of the formula "306 by 74." The exchange, which was organized by Viktor Medvedchuk, was and will remain the largest for now. Kyiv and pro-Russian mercenaries intend to conduct a prisoner swap on the formula "130 to 80" today. In anticipation of this important event, let's remember how it all began. On December 27, 2017, the first stage of the exchange of “all identified for all identified” took place, which, as a result, was never completed. Tomorrow, it is expected to be done.
The exchange of held persons according to the formula “all established on all established” is prescribed in the Minsk agreements. However, with its implementation, there were constant difficulties. By November 2017, there was a situation where for 14 months there were no exchanges.
At the request of the President of Ukraine, leader of the Ukrainian Choice movement Viktor Medvedchuk was engaged in the exchange. Since 2014, he has agreed to release dozens of detainees. However, a great exchange progressed with a creak.
"We have come to the point that it is necessary to implement the item recorded in the Minsk agreements and approved by the UN Security Council resolution, and it sounds"all for all ", but Ukraine for separate reasons (there were people we had to give, but they were accused in the commission of especially serious crimes; persons who, according to the Ukrainian side, were not connected with the events in the ATO on the contact line could not give them away. That was the directive of the President of Ukraine," Medvedchuk said at the beginning of 2018.
The fact is that Kyiv made a condition not to give away people who were convicted of especially serious crimes, and the representatives of "LDPR" did not agree with this. The exchange was on the verge of collapse.
According to Medvedchuk, when he realized that Ukraine would not be able to exchange "everyone for all", he decided to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to help. He addressed him in the presence of Patriarch Kirill in mid-November 2017 with the words: “If you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, use your great authority and will proceed from the position and principle of humanism and make such a request to Mr. Plotnitsky, and Mr. Zakharchenko, I think, we will budge and be able to free 380 people before the New Year and Christmas. "
"I proposed to exchange those for which there is no disagreement, and then continue negotiations on the remaining ones," Medvedchuk said. This idea was supported by the heads of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill also personally asked Putin to assist in the exchange.
The Russian leader on the same day called the militants, and they agreed to the formula 306 by 74. But this did not suit Kyiv. Ukraine stated that there are Russian citizens on the lists of occupied Donbas for exchange. Poroshenko also refused to change them.
“When we approved the 306 by 74 lists, there were 18 Russian citizens. Then, at the last stage, Kyiv took the position that Russian citizens should be released according to the CIS Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Statements began to sound: we will replace these people, instead, we’ll give others who are wanted by Donetsk and Lugansk ... I arrived in Moscow on December 21 or 22, and we spent a week negotiating with representatives of the leaders of the DPR and LPR and representatives of the Russian leadership. We had a very difficult conversation, and every minute I understood that exchange can It’s to be torn down because the lists were approved by everyone, including Mr. President,” Medvedchuk told about the course of negotiations.
The exchange at the end of 2017 became possible precisely thanks to Vladimir Putin. The Donbas militants categorically refused to change the lists, their requirements. The exchange was to break because the parties could not come to a consensus. Then Putin, at the request of Medvedchuk, pressed the leadership of occupied Donbasa second time.
"When he insisted that we should bring to the end and let the position of Ukraine remain the position of Ukraine, and Ukraine offered to exchange For another 18, we changed them, that is the number was saved, and we changed those people that were agreed upon," Viktor Medvedchuk recalled. This paved the way for the largest exchange between Ukraine and militants.
"The agreement was reached 306 by 74, which happened with a few exceptions: of the 306 that we had to transfer to Donetsk and Lugansk, some had already been released, because they had served their sentence or they changed the measure of restraint, or they had already finished serving punishment," Medvedchuk said.
The prisoners were exchanged on December 27 near occupied Horlivka. 16 Ukrainians returned to the territory controlled by Ukraine from self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic. 57 Ukrainians returned from the occupied territory of the Donetsk region. One woman decided to stay on the other side of the demarcation line. Meanwhile, Ukraine passed 223 people to occupied territories; less than it was planned. Ombudsman Valeria Lutkovska explained it by the fact that the term of detention of 43 people finished by that time and they decided to stay. Another 15 people refused from the swap.
Cyborg Oleksandr Morozov, scientist Ihor Kozlovsky, Luhansk ultras Vladyslav Ovcharenko, his friend Artem Akhmerov, contract soldier Valentyn Bohdan and pro-Ukrainian blogger Eduard Nedelyaev, Makiivka activist Volodymyr Fomichev and ATO fighter Oleksandr Oliynyk were among famous people who returned to Ukraine.
President Petro Poroshenko met the released prisoners at Boryspil Airport the same evening. For some reason, he was wearing camouflage and beret; he was criticized on the social networks for it. Viktor Medvedchuk had a recollection of the role of Poroshenko and his representative in Minsk Group in such a way: “If Poroshenko was connected, because if he has not pardoned people, if he has not approved this exchange, it would not take place but all other has nothing to do with the exchange”.
The swap on December 27, 2017, had to become the first stage of the exchange ‘all for all’. Petro Poroshenko provided such guarantees to Viktor Medvedchuk and the last one promised it to the leaders of Russia and occupied Donbas to unblock the way for December exchange.
“When we agreed on the swap and held it on December 27, 2017, then we agreed on the first stage. And then Donetsk, Luhansk, and Moscow made concessions to Ukraine at my request. I stood up these concessions and I stood up the interests of Ukraine that we do not pass all people who are wanted or whom Luhansk and Donetsk want to get. It concerned people who were not tied with the criminal activity in the ATO zone; it concerned the citizens of the Russian nationality; however, we exchange all of them repeatedly. But the position of Poroshenko was and he insisted on it and we said let’s have this exchange in the format ‘306 for 74’ without these people, and the second stage will take place on the formula ‘all identified for all identified’. This second stage had to take place in January-February 2018,” Medvedchuk said.
However, Petro Poroshenko refused from all promises and blocked the second stage. According to many experts, Poroshenko was aiming for the re-election and the policy was held considering the views of his electorate. Then Medvedchuk left the Trilateral Contact Group.
“I provided the commitments to these people. Either to Mr. Putin and leaders Pasichnyk and Pushilin. Then I said: If we move back from out agreements and I announced them but they were agreed with Poroshenko, then I do not want to go to Minsk for the session of the humanitarian subgroup; moreover, the exchange issues are not solved there”. The issues of the preparation for the swaps are solved there. I stated it publicly. I stated it openly to the president of Ukraine that if you want – continue to exchange but I have agreed and I am to ready to do it, in three-five days as soon as you agree on the conditions that you provided to me and I provided them to Moscow, Donetsk, and Luhansk. Considering the fact that this situation has not changed, I did not go to Minsk since May. And there were no exchanged in such a situation because President Poroshenko did not express the political will. He did not want it. He intentionally did not want to release people requested by Donetsk and Luhansk; people, we agreed on,” Medvedchuk said.
After the change of authority in Ukraine, the hope for the completion of the exchange has returned. But Zelensky, continuing the policy of Poroshenko, could not agree with Donbas for more than six months. The situation has changed only after the Normandy Format meeting in Paris on December 9. The leaders of the format agreed that the exchange should take place within a month. Seemingly, how the problems may arise but they appeared again. Kyiv refused to pass former Berkut officers, who are the persons of interest in Maidan case, to occupied Donbas. On December 27, the Prosecutor General’s Office stated that the former law enforcers would not be put on the exchange list. It is a principal issue for occupied Donbas. How it would be solved, we would get to know it soon. Is there someone from the Ukrainian side who convinces Moscow, Donetsk, and Luhansk to make concessions?