Biggest prisoner exchange in Donbass: Over 300 people come back home (PHOTOS)
LUGANSK/MAYORSK CHECKPOINT, December 27 (Lugansk Media Centre) – Ukraine and Donbass Republics have finally carried out the biggest prisoner exchange since the conflict began in 2014. The sides spent months negotiating the exchange lists, terms and conditions.
This morning, the detainees captured by LPR authorities during the armed conflict in Donbass boarded buses outside the Lugansk detention center at 9.00 a.m.
After a three-hour-trip they arrived to the Mayorsk-Zaitsevo checkpoint outside Gorlovka in the DPR, a location designated for the biggest prisoner-of-war exchange in the history of the conflict, and the first since autumn 2016. Later Kiev's buses arrived.
Released footage showed people queuing outside buses with their belongings. Оne of detainees from the LPR was holding a cat.
LPR representative in the Contact Group humanitarian subgroup Olga Kobtseva, responsible for the exchange, was accompanied by DPR Ombudswoman Daria Morozova and a representative of the LPR People's Militia. Ukrainian side was represented by the head of the Captives Liberation Center of the Ukrainian State Security Service Yuriy Kachanov, Ukrainian ombudswoman Valeria Lutkovskaya and Kiev's representative at the humanitarian subgroup Irina Geraschenko.
The exchange between Ukraine and the LPR took place at the Kiev-controlled side of the contact line, on Zaitsevo checkpoint premises.
The members of the OSCE SMM were present throughout the swop on both sides of the contact line, while the ICRC monitors arrived to the Ukrainian side. Both organizations guaranteed safety for LPR representatives who crossed into Ukraine and accompanied them on the way there and back.
According to the hard-brokered agreement, Ukraine was to hand over to the LPR 99 people detained during the conflict. As it later turned out, Kobtseva said, about a dozen of them have already served their terms in Ukraine and apparently decided to stay there. Eight liberated persons refused to participate in the exchange and arrived to the checkpoint to confirm their decision. Two more people decided to stay in Ukraine right at as the verification was taking place.
As the result, 73 people have returned to the Republic, 16 people have been released to Ukraine. The members of the ICRC and the OSCE teams recorded the number of people exchanged.
As it had been previously agreed, the swop between Ukraine and the DPR took place at the DPR territory. The DPR filed a separate list of detainees it wants to be returned, and the verification of the long-hammered lists was going on independently from the LPR-Ukraine procedure.
The DPR-Ukraine verification is still ongoing as of 7.15 p.m., according to Morozova.
Ukrainian special representative for humanitarian issues Viktor Medvedchuk was cited by Russian news agencies as saying that overall 73 people were handed over to Ukraine, 165 people came back home to the DPR, and 73 LPR residents returned to the Republic.
The sides said more people need to be returned to their families. According to Medvedchuk, 74 people remain captives in Ukraine, 24 detainees are still held by the Republics.
LuganskMediaCentre — 27 December — Lugansk
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