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Russia reports “historic” prisoner exchange with Ukraine

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Aircraft carrying Russian citizens detained in Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens detained in Russia landed this afternoon in Kiev and Moscow. A “historic” event, according to the human rights delegate at the Kremlin.

Russia and Ukraine exchanged 70 prisoners this Saturday, Sept. 7, an act deemed “historic” in Moscow as relations between the two countries are going through a difficult period.

The two planes carrying the Ukrainian and Russian prisoners landed respectively in Kiev and Moscow as part of this unprecedented exchange.

“A historic and large-scale humanitarian intervention to bring Russian and Ukrainian citizens back to their families has taken place. 35 people on one side and 35 on the other crossed the border and all the checkpoints,” said Tatyana Moskalkova, Kremlin’s human rights representative.

The woman politician felt that this event had opened a new page in the relations between the two countries in the humanitarian and legal fields. She added that the exchange could not be considered accomplished, however, as the investigation is still ongoing for more than half of the cases.

Among the Ukrainians pardoned by Putin in the exchange of prisoners include the filmmaker Oleg Sentsov . On the Ukrainian side, the editor of the RIA Novosti Ukraine portal, Kirill Vychinski, recently released on bail , was able to return to Russia.

Zelensky evokes a second stage of the exchange

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, for his part, has decided that a second stage of the exchange is possible. He announced that he had talked in the day with Vladimir Putin. “We have taken the first step (…) We must do all the other steps to put an end to this horrible war,” the Ukrainian President told Kiev’s Boryspil airport, in the presence of dozens of journalists.

Paris and Washington welcome exchange

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian welcomed in a statement the exchange of prisoners, “gesture” which testifies according to him “the will” of these two countries to “renew the dialogue”.

“This is a gesture that reflects the willingness of Russia and Ukraine to resume dialogue. It will help restore an atmosphere of trust between the parties in the Normandy format negotiations,” said Le Drian.

“This is a decisive step in the resumption of a constructive dialogue that should be continued in the coming weeks,” said the Elysee in a statement.

Donald Trump congratulated both parties on Twitter, adding that the gesture was “perhaps a giant step towards peace.”

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