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Major Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap underway

Major Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap underway
Despite being stalled several times, the long-awaited prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine has finally begun. Planes carrying the prisoners are set to land in Moscow and Kiev on Saturday afternoon.

А Ukrainian government plane carrying prisoners released by Russia took off from an airport near Moscow and is currently heading for Kiev. At the same time, a Russian plane is returning from Kiev after picking up prisoners there.

Kirill Vyshinsky, a journalist charged with treason by Kiev, is said to be among those flying to Moscow. Russian journalist Vladimir Solovyov earlier posted a photo of Vyshinsky standing next to what appears to a Russian aircraft in Kiev.

Vyshinsky was accused by Kiev of backing the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) in eastern Ukraine. He was unexpectedly released on bail in late August, after being detained for over a year. The journalist previously said that he rejected offers to be put up for swap and vowed to continue attending court hearings

It is still unclear how many prisoners are involved in the exchange. Ukrainian lawyer Mark Feygin said that 35 Ukrainians are being swapped for 35 Russians. He claimed that filmmaker Oleg Sentsov is among the people to be handed over by Moscow.

Sentsov was convicted of plotting terrorist attacks in Crimea and sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Moscow court. He denied the allegations. Kiev considers Sentsov a political prisoner and has demanded his release.

Also on rt.com Putin says prisoner exchange with Kiev will be MASSIVE. Why does it matter & who may be swapped?

Two dozen Ukrainian sailors, who were seized aboard three warships by the Russian Coast Guard after a tense standoff near the Kerch Strait last year, are also involved in the swap, according to their lawyer. They were charged with violating Russia’s maritime border. Ukraine claimed that its vessels were boarded in international waters and accused Moscow of unprovoked aggression.

The potential major prisoner exchange has been much-discussed in recent months. The talks were difficult, with officials on both sides remaining tight-lipped about the details. Negotiations stalled several times until Putin confirmed earlier this week that they were reaching the final stage.

Putin also expressed hope that the first prisoner swap in years would pave the way for repairing the strained relations the countries have had since Crimea’s reunification with Russia in 2014 and the start of the war in eastern Ukraine.

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