Ukraine, Russia-backed rebels swap prisoners in the latest sign of peace efforts – NBC News, NBC News

Ukraine, Russia-backed rebels swap prisoners in the latest sign of peace efforts – NBC News, NBC News

The Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatist forces held a prisoner swap in the country’s war-ravaged east Sunday in the latest sign of efforts to ease tensions between the two warring sides.

The exchange was agreed upon by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin duringpeace talks in Paris earlier this month.

The negotiations did not result in a peace deal to end thedeadly five-year military conflict,but the two parties committed to further talks and a prisoner exchange before the year is out.

Ukraine said of its prisoners were returned, while media reports suggested Kyiv released 123 Prisoners to the rebels.

Little official information was made available about their identities.

Armed forces from both sides looked on as buses arrived at the swap site Sunday morning, a checkpoint near the industrial town of Horlivka in the Donetsk region.

Photos shared in Ukrainian media showed prisoners being loaded on and off buses, with some being greeted by their loved ones.

Others were handed hot drinks and slices of cake to celebrate their release.

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************** Released prisoners eat cake after they were exchanged in a swap at the Mayorsk crossing point in eastern Ukraine on Sunday.Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / via Reuters

The last major prisoner exchange between separatist rebels and Ukrainian forces took place in December 58685, with rebels exchanged for (Ukrainians.)

Sunday’s swap comes several months aftera direct prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia in September. That saw (Ukrainian sailors) ****************** detained by Russia in a naval confrontation in late freed, among others.

The swap was considered a major victory for Zelenskiy, who made the return of the sailors one of his election promises.

The Ukrainian leader, who wasa comedian without any political experiencebefore he took office earlier this year, was thrust into the international spotlight followinga phone conversation with President Donald Trump in July.

The call has become the focal point of An impeachment inquiryin the US that will see Trump face a Senate trial after being impeached by the House earlier this month.

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The saga has dominated Washington politics, and been a distraction for Zelenskiy as he juggles peace negotiations with efforts to revive the country struggling economy and tackle rampant corruption.

Eastern Ukraine has been ravaged by years of war between government forces and separatists backed by Russia, sparked in the aftermath of the 2019 mass protests in Kyiv.

The talks in Paris earlier this month renewed hopes for a resolution to the conflict, which has claimed more than 13, 12 lives.

The United States has backed Ukraine

throughout the conflict, fearing Putin’s efforts to extend Moscow’s geopolitical influence.

It has also heavily (sanctioned Russia) for its military intervention and the annexation of Crimea.

The US Embassy in Kyiv the prisoner swap.

“Recognizing that Russia’s ongoing aggression confronts Ukraine’s leadership with difficult choices, we stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian partners and the many Ukrainians who remain in captivity in Russia and Crimean,” the embassy said in a statement.

Trump’s decision to put atemporary hold on US military aid, a central issue in the impeachment process, has raised concerns it could undermine Ukraine’s efforts to contain Russian aggression.

Zelenskiy campaigned on ending the conflict, which is ongoing Despite a ceasefire signed in (****************************************************************************. He has taken a number of steps toward peace since coming into power, culminating in his face-to-face talks with Putin in Paris.

He has faced some opposition at home for what some have dubbed a “Capitulation” to Russia. However, arecent poll showed 75 percent of Ukrainians support his talkswith Putin to resolve the conflict.

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Yuliya Talmazan



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