76 people returned to Ukraine within the prisoner swap between Kyiv and occupied Donbas as the President’s Office reported.
“The mutual release of detainees finished. 76 our people are safe in the territory controlled by Ukraine,” the message said.
The venue is Mayorske entry-exit checkpoint in the Donetsk region. As of 11 a.m., the exchange procedure began, and the first Ukrainians crossed the checkpoint.
As reported before, Ukraine has agreed on the exact date of the prisoners’ exchange with the militants on the formula ‘all identified to all identified. December 29, representatives of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics will transfer 55 people to Kyiv and expect to receive 87 detainees as part of the "all-for-all" exchange formula.’
At Normandy Four meeting in Paris, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, VolodymyrZelensky 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 VadymPrystaiko 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.