Ukraine and pro-Russians expected to swap prisoners

Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists in the war-torn east of the country are expected to swap dozens of prisoners in a front-line operation on Sunday.

Both sides had said earlier this month they would carry out a prisoner exchange by the end of the year, following high-profile peace talks in Paris aimed at de-escalating Europe’s only active war.

“The exchange should be tomorrow. We’re all waiting for it,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday, calling it “the most difficult task this year”.

Earlier, a spokeswoman for the self-declared rebel republic of Donetsk, Daria Morozova, announced that there was an agreement for the swap.

She said two separatist territories Donetsk and Lugansk will get 87 prisoners, while 55 others will be handed over to Kyiv, without giving details on the identity of those involved.

The prisoner exchange is expected to take place near the town of Gorlivka in the separatist-held Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

Russian media reported that the operation will take place on the front line.

The swap would come three months after Ukraine carried out a long-awaited exchange with Russia of 35 prisoners each.

More than 13,000 people have been killed since pro-Russia fighters in eastern Ukraine launched a bid for independence in 2014, sparking the conflict.

Details of Sunday’s exchange were scarce, with officials saying that lists of prisoners were still being agreed.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Representative, Martin Sajdik, confirmed that preparations for the swap were under way.

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