Europe Politics

Ukraine begins all-for-all prisoner swap with pro-Russian separatists

Key Points
  • Swap initiated by Russian, Ukrainian leaders earlier in Dec
  • Fighting erupted in 2014 after uprising in Kiev
  • Swap gives fragile hope for resolution of conflict
Ukrainian servicemen are seen in the settlement of Odradivka prior to a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels on December 29, 2019.

Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have started an all-for-all prisoner swap, after which all remaining prisoners of the five-year conflict should return home, the office of Ukraine's president said on Sunday.

The agreement was concluded by Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Paris in December.

The swap is taking place at a check point near the industrial town of Horlivka in the Donetsk region.

Russia's RIA news agency, citing a local official from the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, said Kiev would hand over 87 separatists, while Donetsk would return 55 pro-central government fighters.

Kiev's forces have been battling separatists in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine since 2014 in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Sporadic fighting continues despite a ceasefire agreement.

There have been several prisoner exchanges between Kiev and rebels. In the last swap, conducted in December 2017, Ukraine handed over about 300 captives to pro-Russian separatists and took back around 70.