Kiev and pro-Russian separatists began an exchange of hundreds of prisoners of war on Friday, a state security service source said, part of a 12-point peace plan. The agreement to swap 125 Ukrainian servicemen for 225 rebels followed peace talks between envoys of Ukraine, Russia, the separatists and European security watchdog Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Wednesday.“We’ve prepared 225 people, which we will hand over. The main thing is for this not to fall through now,” Markiyan Lubkyvsky, an aide to the head of Ukraine’s SBU security service told Reuters.
He later confirmed the process had begun. It was not clear how long it would take. Russia’s Interfax news agency said rebels reported the exchange had already been completed in their eastern stronghold of Donetsk, resulting in a swap of 222 separatists for 150 Ukrainian prisoners.
The uprising by separatists began a month after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in March, following the popular overthrow of Ukraine’s Moscow-backed president. The conflict has killed more than 4,700 people. Kiev’s pro-Western government says Russia orchestrated the rebellion in Ukraine’s east, a charge denied by Moscow.