Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels swap prisoners before New Year

Laura Christensen
December 30, 2017

The Ukrainian leader greeted the prisoners who were released by the separatists in the town of Kramatorsk, hailing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for helping organize the swap. A number of truces have helped de-escalate the violence, but killings continue. The Kremlin has also continued to aid pro-Russia fighters in the eastern part of Ukraine, where ties to Russia are stronger.Nauert's statement also said Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed to continue to seek a diplomatic solution to the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons program and to support negotiations toward a peaceful end to the ongoing civil war in Syria, where the US and Russia have supported opposing sides.

The first phase of the large-scale prisoner exchange was conducted at a checkpoint near the city of Horlivka in the Donetsk region.

Two Ukrainians - a man and a woman - also opted to stay on the rebel side.

Some of the detainees expressed relief after spending long months, and even years, in captivity. He said, "Mum, I'm already here".

"Still a lot of prisoners remain [behind bars in Donetsk]", he said minutes before he was handed over to the representatives of Ukraine.

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Relatives and friend of the Ukrainian prisoners held by the rebels hold a Ukrainian National flag as they wait them at the Kiev's airport in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. "Glory to our heroes".

"Nothing is more important than to bring our people home", said Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko. A ceasefire that was supposed to go into effect on 23rd of December was shattered within hours when a Ukrainian soldier was killed.

Amid fresh reports of fighting in eastern Ukraine, the largest prisoner exchange of the conflict has taken place between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatist rebels.

"Thank you for your perseverance, guys", Poroshenko said on Facebook. The agreement was signed by Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France in early 2015.

The release and exchange of prisoners was one of the points in the Minsk peace agreement, signed in 2015.

Other reports by My Hot News

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