Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists agree prisoner swap

Measures to de-escalate the war in the east of Ukraine could be seen before the end of the year.

    Ukrainian servicemen who were made prisoners wait during a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and pro-Russia rebels on the check-point near the city of Gorlivka on December 27, 2018 [File: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP]
    Ukrainian servicemen who were made prisoners wait during a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and pro-Russia rebels on the check-point near the city of Gorlivka on December 27, 2018 [File: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP]

    Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists said on Monday they would carry out a prisoner exchange by the end of the year, following high-profile peace talks in Paris.

    The announcement came after Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy held their first face-to-face talks this month and agreed upon measures to de-escalate the conflict.

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    The swap will centre on detainees held by Kyiv and separatists, three months after Ukraine carried out a long-awaited swap with Russia of 35 prisoners each.

    More than 13,000 people have been killed and one million have fled their homes since pro-Russia militias in eastern Ukraine launched a bid for independence in 2014 - kicking off a conflict that deepened Russia's estrangement from the West.

    "An agreement has been reached on the mutual release of detainees by the end of the year," Darka Olifer, spokeswoman for former president Leonid Kuchma, said on Facebook.

    Kuchma represents Kyiv at the talks with Russia and separatists.

    Separatist official Darya Morozova said that lists of prisoners were still being agreed.

    Moscow representative Boris Gryzlov confirmed to reporters that the sides had managed to agree "the necessary conditions" for the swap but did not say what they were.

    OSCE Special Representative Martin Sajdik confirmed that preparations for the swap were under way.

    At the Paris summit, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine agreed to implement a full ceasefire and proceed with a new withdrawal of forces from conflict zones by March 2020.

    French President Emmanuel Macron said at the time a new summit would be held in four months to take stock of progress on ending the conflict.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency