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Russia and Ukraine plan further prisoner exchanges TIME ONLINE

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Russia and Ukraine are considering another exchange of prisoners, according to the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj. In a conversation with the Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, both presidents had agreed "to quickly reach an agreement on lists for the release of Ukrainians in Crimea and in Russia, as well as in Russia and Ukraine," said Selenskyj's office.

The Kremlin did not mention such negotiations in its own communication on the phone call. He only welcomed Sunday's recent prisoner exchange and underlined the "need" to push ahead with the implementation of the Minsk agreements. The agreements concluded in 2015 through the mediation of Germany and France should pacify the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but central points have not yet been implemented by both parties to the conflict.

The Ukrainian government and the separatists in the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east of the country exchanged prisoners on Sunday for the first time since 2017, fueling hopes of easing the conflict that had been going on for almost six years. In total, both sides exchanged 200 prisoners.

Handover of suspected Maidan shooters was displeased

The decision remained in the Ukraine Not without controversy: among them were apparently five suspected Maidan shooters who had been part of the Berkut special force in 2014. The trial against her was surprisingly terminated the day before the exchange. In addition, several prisoners who have already been convicted are said to be among the prisoners that Ukraine handed over to the separatists.

According to Selenskyj, the handover of the former Berkut agents was a condition Russia for the exchange. "I would hand over 100 of them if I had them. Our priority is the return of our people," he commented on the decision. The election promises of the president, who was only elected in April, included bringing prisoners of war and civilians back.

In recent months there have been several signs of a slight relaxation in the heavily burdened relationship between Ukraine and Russia. In November Russia returned three naval vessels to Ukraine, which the Russian coastguard had neared the Kerch Strait the year before the Crimea had confiscated.

The Sunday prisoner exchange had been prepared earlier this month at a summit in Paris, where Putin and Selenskyj met personally for the first time. A ceasefire by the end of the year and another meeting in Normandy format, again with the participation of Germany and France, had been agreed at the meeting.

Another important issue was settled shortly before the two heads of state called: After days of negotiations, the Russian state-owned company Gazprom and the Ukrainian energy supplier Naftogaz signed an agreement for the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine to Europe. The current contract expires at the end of the year.

Civil war for six years

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has been a burden on the relationship between the two countries, as has the unrecognized integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation since 2014.

The government in Kiev
and Western countries have been accusing Russia of separatists since 2014
to support financially and through arms deliveries in Eastern Ukraine. Evidence of this
offer, among other things, satellite images, for example of Russian
Weapon systems owned by the separatists in July 2014
Area shot down passenger plane, according to independent research, it is said to have been shot down by a Russian-made rocket. Russia denies the allegations.

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