KIEV, February 26. /TASS/. As many as 131 Ukrainian nationals are still kept prisoner in the self-proclaimed republics in Donbass, Irina Gerashchenko, who represents Ukraine in the Contact Group’s humanitarian subgroup, wrote on her Facebook account on Friday after a prisoner exchange in the six-for-three format.
However, in her words, this is not progress but just "unblocking of the process."
"Progress is when all are released," she said. "That is why we [in Kiev] insist that security issues and humanitarian issues, first of all prisoner release, except the political block of issues, be of top priority at a meeting [of the Normandy Four foreign ministers on March 3] in Paris."
Earlier on Friday, Ukraine and the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) exchanged prisoners in the six-for-three format. The prisoner exchange took place in the vicinity of the settlement of Schastye. It was planned initially to conduct an exchange in the four-for-eight format. "Ukraine is responsible for these last-minute changes," LPR’s representative in the Contact Groups’d humanitarian subgroup Olga Kobtseva.
The previous prisoner exchange in 2016 took place on February 20 in the vicinity of the settlement of Maryinka near Donetsk. On that day, Ukraine released five militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and a priest who was detained in the summer of 2015. The DPR released two communications officers of the Ukrainian army and a gunmen from the Donbass paramilitary battalion.
Prisoner exchanges in the all-for-all format is one of the key provisions of the Package of Measures on the implementation of the Minsk agreements that was signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk on February 12 after marathon talks between the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine.
Apart from that, the 13-point Package of Measures on implementation of the September 2014 Minsk agreements, known as Minsk-2, in particular included an agreement on cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the situation in Ukraine, including establishment of working subgroups as priority tasks.