Fear and Loyalty: Kyiv, Donbas prisoner swap, 76 Ukrainians returned

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For the past year, Kyiv, Donbas prisoner swap, 76 Ukrainians returned – Zelensky: 76 people returned to Ukraine from Donbas; six stay in occupied territories. Hardly six months into his tenure as the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky has already learned to temper his expectations. Zelensky at Boryspil airport.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky stated that totally 81 people were released during the prisoner swap. 76 of them returned to the territories controlled by Ukraine; another 6 decided to stay in occupied territories as Radio Liberty reported.

“We released 81 people, 76 are in Ukraine now, in controlled territory. Six of them stayed in temporarily occupied territories; they have families there,” Zelensky said.

As President’s Office reported, 76 people returned to Ukraine within the prisoner swap between Kyiv and occupied Donbas.

As reported before, Ukraine has agreed the exact date of the prisoners’ exchange with the militants on the formula ‘all identified to all identified. December 29, representatives of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics will transfer 55 people to Kyiv and expect to receive 87 detainees as part of the “all-for-all” exchange formula.’

At Normandy Four meeting in Paris, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, VolodymyrZelensky and Vladimir Putin have so far agreed to hold another round of prisoners’ exchange. The deadline would be until December 31, 2019. President promised that by the end of 2019, 72 political prisoners could return to Ukraine.

Zelensky stated that the lists for the prisoners’ exchange with Russia in the format ‘all for all’ will be discussed on December 18 at Minsk Talks. Later, the video conference was delayed until December 23.

Prisoners’ exchange was hampered by refusal of some detainees to return to Donbas, as media reported. A few dozens of people prepared for the return to occupied Donbas asked to exclude them from the exchange list due to the different reasons.So-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics accused Kyiv of delaying prisoner exchange negotiations.

The Council of Europe welcomed the agreement between the participants of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk on the exchange of prisoners between Kyiv and the occupied territories of Donbas in the “all-for-all” format.

On December 23, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister VadymPrystaiko claims that Minsk talks group has agreed on one group of prisoners to be exchanged between Kyiv and the self-proclaimed republics of Donbas. According to him, the Ukrainian side wants to bring back as many people as possible before the New Year’s eve. This is why the OSCE coordinator made the decision to hold a video conference and complete the work on the lists.

This is the second prisoner swap between Ukraine and occupied Donbas. 74 Ukrainians were exchanged for 238 militants in December 2017.

Another prisoner exchange took place recently between Ukraine and Russia. In this swap, Oleg Sentsov, as well as many other prisoners was able to return home.