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Kremlin denounces calls by Ukraine’s Zelensky to carry on sanctions against Russia

Another prisoner swap with Kiev possible, but would take time, Kremlin says

MOSCOW, September 13. /TASS/. The Kremlin has denounced the calls by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky for the West to continue slapping sanctions against Russia.

"We have not welcomed it [Zelensky’s statement]. We all know that there is a set of talking points, maybe they have become trivial by now, however, these talking points have been proven correct many times," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "Sanctions are a double-edged sword, they do not benefit anyone, they do not help to resolve the problem, they violate international law, blur the lines of international law and in general, they do not bring good to the countries against which they are introduced, nor to the countries that introduce them."

"The statements that we hear from Kiev on the development of a roadmap to adhere to the obligations of the Ukrainian side on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements seem much more appealing to us," Peskov noted. "These words, these reports are more appealing to us than those mentioned [on sanctions]," the spokesman said.

Earlier, during the Yalta European Strategy Conference in Kiev, Zelensky urged the West to continue its sanctions policy against Russia, calling the sanctions "a tax for peace."

The US and the EU first imposed sanctions against Russia in March 2014 after Crimea reunited with Russia. The first wave of individual sanctions included a number of Crimean officials and Russian citizens who, according to the West, were involved in the events in Crimea. These restrictive measures have been expanded several times since then, with the West citing Russia’s influence in Donbass. The additional restrictions covered banking and industrial sectors of the Russian economy. Representatives of the US and the EU stated several times that if the Minsk accords are fully adhered to, the sanctions against Russia in relation to the events in eastern Ukraine will be lifted. Nonetheless, the Crimea-related sanctions will remain in force.

Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has not ruled out that Moscow and Kiev may carry out another exchange of individuals being held in each other’s custody, but warned that preparations for such an event will require much time and effort. “This [new exchange] will require the start of another process, an exchange of opinion and very scrupulous and time-consuming work,” Peskov told the media. “Nobody is ruling out the possibility and expediency of this process a priori. It is a subject matter of bilateral contacts,” he added.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said on Friday that Kiev was working on lists for another prisoner swap with Russia.

Moscow and Kiev on September 7 exchanged ‘35 for 35’ detainees. Preparations for the exchange were stepped up after Zelensky’s presidential election victory. The active phase of the talks and legal procedures began several weeks ago. On September 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that there would be a large-scale exchange and that it might serve as a step towards normalizing bilateral relations.

Handover of detained vessels in Kerch Strait

During the course of the prisoner swap negotiations, Russia and Ukraine did not talk about the handover of Ukrainian vessels detained in the Kerch Strait, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday. "No, we haven’t discussed this issue," he said, adding that he is not ready to specify the conditions that Russia could put forward to hand over the ships to Ukraine.

"I am not ready to discuss this issue with you now. It seems that this issue should be raised within the framework of the contacts between Moscow and Kiev," the Kremlin spokesman said. "When the issue is raised, we will discuss it."

On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian warships, en route from Odessa to Mariupol, illegally crossed Russia’s state border, entered Russia’s territorial waters in the Kerch Strait and started performing dangerous maneuvers. Despite the repeated warnings and demands to stop, the Ukrainian vessels continued their way, forcing Russia to use weapons. All three Ukrainian ships were detained in the Black Sea, along with 24 Ukrainian sailors.

On September 7, Moscow and Kiev carried out a "35 for 35" exchange of detainees, which included the 24 Ukrainian sailors taken into custody in the Kerch Strait.