Dozens of people handed over to each other: Kiev and Donbass exchanged prisoners
Ukraine and Donetsk separatists have exchanged prisoners for the first time in two years. Kiev and the armed formations, the so-called LPR and DPR, handed over dozens of people to each other, including members of the Berkut unit accused of shooting people on the Maidan in February 2014. Writes about it with the BBC.
Late Sunday night, a plane with liberated Ukrainians landed at the Kiev Borispol airport. After meeting with relatives, their buses were sent to hospitals for examination.
“We will continue to work - until all the Ukrainians who are prisoners of Russia and the quasi-republics are at home,” Ivan Bakanov, head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), told reporters after the prisoners were released.
The exchange was agreed between Russian and Ukrainian presidents Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky with the participation of the leaders of Germany and France.
The exchange began on a foggy morning at the Mayorsk checkpoint on the contact line in Donbas and ended only in the afternoon. Kiev planned to transfer 87 people and free 55. As a result, they exchanged more - 124 for 76.
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More than a dozen people refused to return to the territory controlled by the separatists, Interfax reported citing representatives of the LPR and DPR. Four people from the list of Kiev decided to stay in Donetsk.
In 2017, the exchange was also not equal: 233 to 73. In addition, in September Russia and Ukraine exchanged detainees and prisoners according to the formula "35 to 35".
The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine began after the revolution in Kiev in 2014 and the annexation of Crimea, for which the United States and Europe punished Russia with sanctions.
Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of political and military support for the separatists in the Donbass. The Kremlin denies interference. He distributes Russian passports to the inhabitants of the DPR and LPR and allegedly acts as a mediator in the negotiations of the separatists with the Ukrainian authorities.
The decision of the Ukrainian authorities to extradite to Russia the fighters of the Berkut special unit, against whom criminal cases are under way for the execution of protesters on the Independence Square in Kiev in 2014, has caused sharp criticism in the Ukrainian society.
Commenting on the exchange, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said that it was a difficult decision.
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“We took our heroes. Our priority is to get our people back. I respect the parents and relatives of the “Heavenly Hundreds” who have lost loved ones on the Maidan. Unfortunately, we cannot return those who are no longer there. But we could bring back the living. And we will finish the Maidan affairs, ”Zelensky said.
“If I had another hundred Berkut members and I was offered one scout, I would give it. The exchange could break down every day. I returned the living, and it seems to me that this is the most important thing, ”added the Ukrainian leader.
According to observers, although the current exchange in the Donbass will bring relief to the prisoners themselves and their families, it is unlikely to help further the settlement of the conflict.
“In Kiev, the terms of the Minsk-2 agreement are still cursed, and this will remain unchanged. It is much more likely that the conflict will turn into a frozen one than it will be resolved ”, - posted on twitter Head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, Dmitry Tenin.
How was the exchange prepared?
We agreed on an exchange 9 December in Paris at a meeting in the "Normandy format" heads of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France. In a communiqué following the meeting, they called on the Trilateral Contact Group to facilitate an “all for all” exchange by the end of the year.
At the same time, Zelensky made a reservation that it is only about “all agreed to all agreed”.
The contact group includes Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE, as well as representatives of the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR. The meetings are held in Minsk. At the first meeting after the Paris summit on December 18, it was not possible to agree on the lists. It turned out to be done only on December 23rd - we agreed to exchange prisoners before the New Year in the format “all set to all set”.
At the same time, the Ukrainian media reported that, as part of the exchange, Kiev was ready to transfer the DPR and LPR former employees of the special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine "Berkut", accused of shooting people on the Maidan in 2014.
The date of the exchange - December 29 - became known only the day before. She was first named in the DPR, and then Zelensky confirmed, but again with a reservation. “We are waiting for this. The verification of all people has not been fully completed yet, ”the President of Ukraine said, without specifying details.
Only late in the evening on December 28, the Kiev Court of Appeal changed the measure of restraint and ruled to release from the pre-trial detention center former Berkut fighters Pavel Abroskin, Sergei Zinchenko and Oleg Yanishevsky. At the court hearing, prosecutor Sergei Kutsyi confirmed that they are on the exchange list. Two more former employees of the special forces were previously transferred to house arrest. The court released all five of them on personal obligation.
Attorney Valentin Rybin said earlier that Yanishevsky, Abroskin and Zinchenko had been applying for an exchange for many years, but were refused.
After the decision of the Kiev court on their release from custody near the pre-trial detention center, activists gathered. They built a barricade of benches and garbage cans to prevent the accused of shooting from the isolation ward.
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