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Political ambitions, populism should not hamper prisoner swap - Ukrainian politician

December 28, 2016, 2:39 UTC+3 KIEV

"This effort should not be hampered by political ambitions and populist statements, especially by those who have no relation to the negotiation process," Viktor Medvedchuk said

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KIEV, December 27. /TASS/. Political ambitions and populist statements should not impede the prisoner swap between the Kiev government and the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, a Ukrainian politician told TASS in an interview Tuesday.

"I’m convinced that the Ukrainian side should release our citizens at all costs, and this effort should not be hampered by political ambitions and populist statements, especially by those who have no relation to the negotiation process. The freedom of these people should not be a subject for bargaining or any kind of ‘exchange rate’ for prisoners," said Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Choice - People’s Right public movement.

Commenting on Tuesday’s release of two Ukrainian women, the politician described it as "a goodwill gesture" and called on anyone who can assist in the release of prisoners to do so.

"We simply need to find common ground that would allow us to carry out prisoner swaps," Medvedchuk said. ‘The search for possibilities and ways goes on in continuous negotiations with the leadership of Russia and negotiators from Donetsk and Luhansk."

However, he described the overall prisoner swap situation this year as "difficult," adding that 24 people were released by Donetsk and Luhansk, along with three people convicted for various crimes in Russia. At the same time, the Kiev government released 36 people.

"I think that the release of 63 people, who were able to return home to their families is a significant achievement, although there is a lot of room for improvement," the Ukrainian politician said.

According to Medvedchuk’s estimates, the Kiev government puts the number of possible prisoners of war held in Donetsk and Luhansk at 106, although more than a half of them remains unaccounted for. The self-proclaimed republics are searching for 952 people in Ukraine, the whereabouts of 616 of them are known.

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.

The self-proclaimed people’s republic of Donetsk and Luhansk (DPR and LPR) have unilaterally released two Ukrainians - Angelica Presnyakova and Olga Svorak - as a goodwill gesture earlier Tuesday.

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