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Prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russian occupation authorities in Donbas underway – PHOTOS

Prisoner exchange, view from the government-controlled side of the contact line. Horlivka area, 16 April 2020. Photo:
Prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russian occupation authorities in Donbas underway – PHOTOS
A prisoner exchange is underway at the contact line in the Donbas, Ukraine’s easternmost region partly controlled by Russian-backed statelets since 2014. Today Ukraine is going to exchange 19 citizens held captive in the areas effectively under Russian occupation.

This exchange has been rushed amid coronavirus quarantine restrictions that were cited as the reason to ban Ukrainian journalists from the exchange sites. The Ukrainian parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova says that the released Ukrainians will be locked down for observation at a special location, where “they would be supplied with all necessities, in particular, medical care, food, clothes, and means of communication.”

Meanwhile, the occupation authorities allowed Russian journalists to be present at the Russian-controlled side of the front.

The prisoner exchange in the area of occupied Horlivka as seen from the Russian-controlled side:

The first part of today’s exchange occurred this morning near the Ukrainian checkpoint Maiorsk on the outskirts of Russian-occupied Horlivka, with the Russian-controlled “Donetsk People’s Republic.” Nine Ukrainians returned home in exchange for 10 detainees whom Ukraine handed over to occupied Donetsk. According to the so-called “DNR Ombudsman office,” the 11th prisoner refused to be transferred to the Russian-controlled territory.

The second part took place in Luhansk Oblast at the bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river near the town of Shchastia. According to the latest reports, the occupation authorities hand over 11 Ukrainian hostages while Ukraine transferred four people to the occupied city; three other prisoners refused to come to the “Luhansk People’s Republic” because their homes and families were on Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Ukraine closed all its Donbas checkpoints on 21 March amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, which is why the exchange process didn’t hinder passenger traffic across the contact line.

It is the third prisoner exchange with Russia and its occupation administrations under the presidency of Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The first swap took place last September when 35 Ukrainians returned home, the second resulted in the handover of 76 Ukrainian captives in December 2019.

Who returns to free Ukraine

The identities of Ukrainian hostages and those whom Ukraine transfers to the occupied Donbas haven’t been officially revealed so far.

According to the sources of Ukrainska Pravda, two Ukrainian servicemen captured in 2019 were taken out from the Makiyivka-based correctional colony #32, where the occupation authorities of Donetsk hold Ukrainian military. According to preliminary reports, they were Mykola Hrynenko of Ukraine’s 79th airborne assault brigade and Viktor Shaidov of the 53rd brigade. Other prisoners-of-war remained in the facility.

“My son was said that Donetsk is ready to hand him over, but Ukraine didn’t submit the request,” said a PoW’s mother to Ukrainska Pravda.

As for the occupied parts of Luhansk Oblast, the sources also reported that “several civilians” were transferred from Krasnyy Luch correctional colony #19 to the Luhansk detention facility and were kept all in one cell there. However, no names are known so far.

Update 17:03

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Office has updated on the prisoner exchange that took place today, publishing the list of 20 Ukrainians who were released from captivity today. Most of them are civilians. The list includes only two soldiers – it’s Mykola Hrynenko and Viktor Shaidov as sources suggested earlier, and one law enforcer Volodymyr Karas.

According to Ukraine’s Security Service, Ukraine, in turn, handed over to Russian occupation forces 14 persons.


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