Ukraine and Russia exchange prisoners in landmark deal

A long-awaited exchange of prisoners being held by Russia and Ukraine appears to be under way.

Buses from a Russian jail headed towards a Moscow airport “within the framework of preparations”, Russian TV said, and planes flew to Kiev and Moscow.

Those expected to be swapped include 24 Ukrainian sailors – and Volodymyr Tsemakh, a “person of interest” in the investigation into the 2014 shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane.

The swap is aimed at easing tensions.

Relations between the two neighbours deteriorated dramatically in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Russian-backed rebels began an insurgency in two regions of eastern Ukraine.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

In April Ukrainians elected a new president. Volodymyr Zelensky said his top priority was to end the conflict.

Russian officials have said progress towards a prisoner release is vital for improving the “atmosphere surrounding a settlement of the Ukrainian crisis”.

Negotiations on the extremely sensitive issue were held in complete secrecy, with both Ukrainian and Russian officials stressing that any leaks could derail the swap.

On 30 August, Ukraine’s new prosecutor shared a Facebook post suggesting a swap had begun. This was later denied by President Zelensky’s office.

Who is being exchanged?

Thirty-five prisoners in total are thought to be included by each side.

Russia’s list is dominated by…

Continue Reading This Article At BBC News

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