SHAFAQNA – Kiev and pro-Russia forces have reportedly exchanged over 900 prisoners since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine.
Daria Morozova, human rights commissioner from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Sunday that nine exchanges of captives have been carried out so far and the tenth prisoner swap is expected to take place within the next two weeks.
Morozova explained that some 404 government soldiers have been handed over to Kiev and 25 people have been released as a sign of good will. Meanwhile, the pro-Russian side has received about 500 people including many civilians.
On December 24, 2004, a preliminary meeting between the Ukrainian officials and pro-Russia forces concluded in the Belarusian capital Minsk, during which the two sides reached an agreement on a prisoner swap.
In line with the deal, the first round of prisoner swap, also believed to be the largest, started on December 26, 2014, where about 150 Ukrainian government troops were swapped with 225 pro-Russia gunmen.
The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia protesters and the Ukrainian army since Kiev started military operations in mid-April in a bid to crush the protests.
Violence intensified in May after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.
The West accuses Moscow of supporting the pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine. Russia has strongly denied the allegation.