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Kyiv, Separatists Agree On Prisoner Exchange In Eastern Ukraine


A file photo of a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists in 2016.

Ukrainian authorities and Russian-backed separatists have confirmed that a major prisoner exchange will take place between the two sides of the conflict on December 27.

Iryna Herashchenko, first deputy speaker of parliament in Ukraine wrote on her Facebook account on December 25: "Seventy-four Ukrainians will be released [by the separatists] on December 27. We will exchange them for 306 people."

Separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko said the swap would be held "under the 306-for-74 formula."

Zakharchenko made the comment after separatist leaders met with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill in Moscow's Svyato-Danilov Monastery.

Herashenko has previously said that Kyiv had long been ready "to hand over all of those who can be released under Ukrainian laws in order to take confirmed Ukrainians in exchange."

Herashenko is Ukraine’s representative for the Trilateral Contact Group or the TCG, which consists of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

It was not immediately clear if this covers all captives.

Some reports claim Ukraine has 306 separatist fighters in custody, while the separatists are holding 74 government soldiers.

However, Patriarch Kirill said he hopes that the "upcoming prisoner exchange would begin the process, because not all of those who remain in captivity… have been included in the list."

There have been no prisoner swaps for 14 months.

Fighting between Kyiv's forces and the Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

At a meeting in Minsk on December 20, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the separatists, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that they had agreed on a holiday cease-fire starting at midnight on December 23.

The cease-fire was agreed "in connection with the forthcoming Christmas and New Year festivities" and existing agreements and obligations, said an OSCE statement.

However, on December 25, both sides in the conflict made claims acusing each other of violating the cease-fire agreement.

Several cease-fire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords -- September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict -- have failed to hold.

With reporting by Interfax, unian.net, and AP
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