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Belarus Pardons Ukrainian Man After Kyiv Releases Belarusian 'Spy'

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Yury Palityka appears in court in Chernihiv in April.

Belarus has pardoned a Ukrainian man sentenced to 8 years in prison on espionage charges a day after Ukrainian authorities released on his own recognizance a Belarusian citizen also charged with spying.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter on October 4 that Pavlo Sharoyko, who was sentenced in June last year, is already in Ukraine.

"Another Ukrainian prisoner, journalist Pavlo Sharoyko, who was sentenced to 8 years [in prison] in Belarus, has been pardoned and is already at home in Ukraine!" Zelenskiy wrote.

Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said that Sharoyko's release was the result of talks between Zelenskiy and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who are currently meeting in Ukraine's northwestern city of Zhytomyr.

Ukrainian authorities on October 3 released Belarusian citizen Yury Palityka who was on trial for allegedly collecting classified information for an unspecified Belarusian state organization.

Palityka's lawyer, Taras Horolyuk, told RFE/RL that a court in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv released his client on his own recognizance on October 3. Palityka was ordered to attend his trial, Horolyuk said.

Palityka was arrested in June 2017 while crossing the Ukrainian-Belarusian border and charged with spying. Ukrainian authorities said then that he had secret information regarding Kyiv's military operations against Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's east.

After Palityka's arrest in Ukraine, Belarusian authorities detained Sharoyko several months later in October 2017.

Human rights groups in both countries have said that Minsk and Kyiv may exchange Palityka and Sharoyko.

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