Ukraine, pro-Russians exchange prisoners

Ukraine, pro-Russians exchange prisoners

Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:39AM GMT

Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russians have exchanged dozens of prisoners captured during clashes in eastern Ukraine, as the ceasefire between the two sides keeps holding.

The exchange of 67 prisoners took place on Friday in the eastern city of Donetsk under the watch of international observers, as part of the ceasefire deal signed earlier this month.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said 36 army troops were released after negotiations. At least 20 others had been freed on Thursday.

In addition, Ukraine handed over 31 pro-Russian activists detained during the five months of fighting.

Meanwhile, hundreds of additional prisoners are believed to be still held by both sides, although no exact figure is available.

Darya Morozova, who oversaw the prisoner exchange for the pro-Russians, said some 1,200 of their supporters are being detained by Ukrainian authorities, while “up to 1,000” Ukrainian servicemen are being held by pro-Russian forces.

Morozova added that pro-Russians held by the Kiev government had been poorly treaty and some had not received food for around two weeks.

In addition, Morozova said another prisoner exchange is expected in the next three days.

This comes as a shaky ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia activists continues to hold, despite sporadic skirmishes between the two sides.

Shortly after the prisoner swap took place, a barrage of rocket fire was heard in Donetsk.

The truce deal between Kiev and the pro-Russians was reached on September 5 after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hammered out a compromise deal aimed at ending the heavy fighting.

Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking regions in the east have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Moscow forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations to silence pro-Russians in mid-April.

Violence intensified in May after the two flashpoint regions of Donetsk and Lugansk held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine.

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