For the first time, President Volodymyr Zelensky commented on the exchange of the former Berkut fighters, while the society was discussing its feasibility during a week. Zelensky stated that it was the demand of the other side and he did not doubt the accuracy of this decision.
“[Including on the list the] Berkut fighters was the condition ‘all for all’ exchange. It is a difficult political decision I believe that our fighters, military, journalists are heroes. It is a priority. I treat the relatives of the deceased in Maidan with respect… Unfortunately, we cannot return those deceased during Maidan, but we can return our people and we did it. I am sure that it is a priority,” Zelensky stated.
According to him, Berkut fighters could be sentenced to five-six years in jail but Ukraine succeeded to return dozens of people home
“For five years there were no verdicts; two Berkut law enforcers were under house arrest; they were not thin, they were not beaten as ours were. They have been normally living for these five years. We will figure out why there were no verdicts during these five years. It will not influence the cases of Maidan… We will finish the Maidan case, I promise. Three fighters were in the remand center and three were without verdicts. If we hadn’t exchanged Berkut fighters, we would not have returned our people who released Debaltseve. If we had left them, they would get five-six years but we return living people,” Zelensky said.
He also added that if he could give away 100 Berkut fighters in order to return one of our scouts, he would do it.
On December 28, Kyiv court changed the restrictive measure from the detention to the personal commitments for five former law enforcers – Oleh Yanyshevsky, Pavlo Abroskin, Serhiy Zinchenko, Oleksandr Marinchenko and Serhiy Tamtura. All of them were suspected in the commitment of the crimes in Maidan. Moreover, former Berkut fighters are on the exchange list between Ukraine and occupied Donbas.
Later the protest started near Lukyanivske detention center. People stood against the release of former Berkut law enforcers.
As President’s Office reported, 76 people returned to Ukraine within the prisoner swap between Kyiv and occupied Donbas.
As reported before, Ukraine has agreed 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 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.