Ukraine-Russia Prisoner Swap: A Good Step Toward the Normalisation of Relations between Moscow and Kyiv

Photo:Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

Kyiv and Moscow have exchanged dozens of prisoners in a dramatic operation , “The Guardian” reports.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was on the tarmac at Kyiv’s Boryspil airport to greet the prisoners released by Russia on Saturday morning. There were emotional scenes as family members were reunited on the runway.

Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film-maker sentenced to 20 years’ prison in Russia on controversial ‘“terror” charges in 2015, was among those returning home.

Both countries freed 35 prisoners as part of the exchange.

“We have done everything we promised,” said Zelenskiy. He said he hoped the exchange was the first step in increased efforts to bring peace to war-torn east Ukraine, where more than 13,000 people have died in ongoing fighting.

The US president, Donald Trump, tweeted: “Russia and Ukraine just swapped large numbers of prisoners. Very good news, perhaps a first giant step to peace. Congratulations to both countries!”

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday that the prisoner exchange would be “a good step” toward the normalisation of relations between Moscow and Kyiv.

The Russian foreign ministry said the historic prisoner exchange was the result of negotiations between Putin and Zelenskiy. “Unlike its predecessors, Zelenskiy’s administration has demonstrated a sensible approach and a willingness to compromise,” the ministry said. Rossiya 24, a Russian state television channel, described the exchange as a “long-awaited and joyous occasion”.