Kiev completes prisoner swap with rebels -- presidential office

Source: Xinhua| 2019-12-30 20:39:13|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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KIEV, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Ukrainian government completed a prisoner swap with rebels in the country's eastern regions and received 76 detainees on Sunday, the presidential office said.

"The mutual release of the detainees has ended," the presidential office said in a statement on Facebook, adding that it will provide more details later. The prisoner swap took place near the city of Horlivka in the Donetsk region.

The 76 captives, namely 12 military personnel and 64 civilians, arrived at the Boryspil airport near Kiev on Sunday night.

Interfax Ukraine news agency said in an earlier report that Kiev would hand over about 120 captives to the rebels in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

This is the first prisoner exchange between the two sides since 2017 when Kiev and the rebels released a total of 312 detainees.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Sunday's prisoner swap during a phone conversation, according to the Kremlin.

"France and Germany welcome the release of 76 Ukrainian detainees and join in the joy of their families and of all Ukrainians. We welcome this new step which follows the recent N4 (Normandy Four) summit and call on the parties to implement all of the commitments made on December 9 at the Paris summit," the French Embassy in Ukraine tweeted.

At the last meeting of the Normandy Four leaders in Paris earlier this month after a three-year interval, Ukraine and Russia agreed on a full and comprehensive implementation of a ceasefire in Donbass by the end of 2019.

"The parties commit to fully implementing the ceasefire, which will be consolidated by the implementation of all necessary ceasefire support measures, before the end of 2019," said a joint declaration issued by the Normandy Four leaders.

The four leaders regard the meeting as progress in reviving the peace process as outlined in the Minsk agreements, which, signed in September 2014 and February 2015 respectively, are designed to peacefully end the conflict in Donbass.

Specifically, the agreements envisage a ceasefire, a withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the demarcation line, a prisoner exchange and local elections, among other measures.

According to a Sputnik report, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that following an exchange of prisoners between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, the first part of the Normandy accords was successfully implemented.

The Normandy Four format, which groups Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, was created in June 2014, when leaders of the four countries met on the margins of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day allied landings in Normandy to resolve the Donbass conflict, which erupted in April that year.

According to the United Nations, some 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict since then.