Ukraine and Russia Complete Prisoner Swap
Sept. 7, 2019 (EIRNS)—In a breakthrough in Russian-Ukrainian relations, a prisoner swap between Moscow and Kiev was completed today involving 35 prisoners on each side. A Russian Tu-204 airliner carrying 35 Russians who had been imprisoned in Ukraine landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport at 1:26 p.m. Moscow time (UTC+3), while at virtually the same time, a Ukrainian An-148 aircraft carrying 35 Ukrainians, including the 24 Ukrainian sailors who were detained in Russia following the Kerch Strait incident last November, who had been imprisoned in Russia, landed at Boryspil Airport outside Kiev, where they were met by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and their families.
Zelensky said, that with the prisoner swap, the first stage of agreement between himself and Russian President Vladimir Putin had been fulfilled. “I must confirm that I, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin have done everything we promised, without changing our agreements along the way,” he said, according to Interfax Ukraine. “I’m sure we know what to do next.... Next, we will be moving towards the return of all our prisoners and continue the troop withdrawal within the Minsk process in two stages: Zolote, Petrovske [two contested locations in Luhansk] first, and then withdrawal throughout the entire territory and already a full ceasefire and an end to the war,” Zelensky emphasized.
From the Russian side, Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova also confirmed that the swap had been completed. She hailed the event as “a historical mass-scale humanitarian action,” confirming the swap was “35-for-35.” RT reports that the exchange was the result of months of painstaking negotiations at various levels, even rising to the level of the two Presidents on occasion. There were some “provocations” and other challenges throughout the talks, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. But in the end, “the political will and meticulous work delivers results.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also weighed in, saying that Moscow is “pleased that Russian citizens have returned home.”
President Donald Trump welcomed the prisoner exchange, tweeting: “Russia and Ukraine just swapped large numbers of prisoners. Very good news, perhaps a first giant step to peace. Congratulations to both countries!”