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Putin supports visa-free travel to EU for Ukrainians

December 23, 2016, 14:21 UTC+3

Putin says the visa regime in Europe is a Cold War anachronism, which must be left behind as soon as possible

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MOSCOW, December 23./TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin supports visa-free travels for Ukrainians to the European Union countries, saying it would be a move in the right direction.

"As for visa-free travels for Ukrainian nationals on the part of Europe, I fully support this. Moreover, I believe the visa regime in Europe is a Cold War anachronism, which must be left behind as soon as possible. If the Ukrainian nationals get the right of visa-free travels to Europe, I think this would be a right move in the right direction," the president said at his annual news conference.

However, if Ukrainians don’t get the right to work in Europe within the framework of visa-free travels, they will find themselves socially unprotected, President Putin said.

"Preliminary figures alone put the number of Ukrainians working in Russia at three million. And if Europe launches a visa-free regime, and earnings there are higher, of course people will try to move there, even from Russia. Needless to say about those who want to move to Europe for work from Ukraine," Putin said, noting that this would be a serious burden on the labor market in Europe.

"If they don’t get the right to work, then people going to Europe from Ukraine for work will be by default put into a humiliating situation. This means they will have to work illegally, in other words they will be going (to Europe) for three months within the terms of visa-free permission, and then be getting back to Ukraine to register and immediately return. This means they will work illegally and won’t be socially protected, it will be a cruel exploitation," Putin said.

If the EU allows visa-free entries, then it should also grant the right to work, Putin said.


Prisoner exchange

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is for having the prisoner exchange in Ukraine on the all-for-all basis.

"We have been doing everything to have the people detained on both sides liberated," he told the annual news conference on Friday. "The fuller is the exchange, the better."

Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko had spoken for the exchange on the all-for-all basis, Putin continued. "I agree with it fully. But later on, it became clear behind the "all for all" formula were certain details, which cannot be acceptable for Donbass."

The thing is all the people detained in Donbass are considered by the Ukrainian authorities as being kept illegally. "And there are many more people, kept in Ukrainian prisons, whom the Ukrainian authorities consider being imprisoned quite legally and they would not allow putting them on lists for exchanges." If the all-for-all exchange is made, then they should be announced pardoned and should be released. "Otherwise, it would be very complicated to reach an agreement," Putin said.

Kiev should think how to make it so that the Ukrainian armed forces are not considered invaders in their own country. "It would be good to make it so that people in Donbass do not consider the Ukrainian armed forces invaders in their own country," Putin said. "This is what should be considered."

POW exchange

Members of the Contact Group for the settlement of the situation in the east of Ukraine at a meeting in Minsk on February 12, 2015, agreed a Complex of Measures to implement the Minsk agreements, where an item binds the parties to release prisoners of war on the "all for all" basis.

DPR’s ombudsman said the Ukrainian side keeps 966 prisoners. Kiev’s representative in the humanitarian subgroup Irina Geraschenko said Donbass kept 107 prisoners.

The recent time the parties announced an exchange in late September. At that time, Donbass hoped to return 618 people in exchange for 47 Ukrainian military. Later on, on December 7, Kiev presented different figures - 228 people to be released in exchange for 42 Ukrainians.

Ambassador Martin Sajdik, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in the Contact Group for the Ukraine settlement, stated at the Group’s last meeting in Minsk on December 21 - when asked what was preventing the sides from releasing prisoners on an all-for-all basis - that it was necessary to agree on exact lists of people, who should be released.


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