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Russia, Ukraine continue correcting prisoner swap lists, lawyer says

The attorney explained that people who had been exchanged in 2017 were put on the lists once again, denouncing Ukraine as "being cunning"
Yevgeny Mefedov (left) Arkhip Vereshagin/TASS
Yevgeny Mefedov (left)
© Arkhip Vereshagin/TASS

KIEV, August 23. /TASS/. Russia and Ukraine continue work to correct prisoner swap lists, lawyer Valentin Rybin told TASS on Friday.

"Efforts continue to correct the lists, work continues non-stop. There is no final formula yet," said Rybin, who is the defense attorney of Russian nationals Maxim Odintsov, Alexander Baranov and Yevgeny Mefedov, jailed in Ukraine.

According to Rybin, "a decision must have been agreed at the highest level but at the executive level attempts are being made to include things that are actually wrong." The attorney explained that, in particular, people who had been exchanged in 2017 were put on the lists once again. "Ukraine is being cunning, as always," he said.

Rybin confirmed that some of his clients had been included in the lists but refused to give the names. He noted that the much-expected exchange might happen "very soon" and mentioned the names of Maxim Odintsov and Alexander Baranov, jailed in Ukraine, who are likely to be pardoned, as the defense attorney told TASS on Friday.  

Rybin was confident that Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova had arrived in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in connection with the upcoming prisoner swap. "Moskalkova will definitely discuss exchange issues but I haven’t been invited to any meetings on the matter yet. I will gladly meet with her if I am invited," the attorney said.

Russian and Ukrainian media reported earlier that Moscow and Kiev could conduct a detainee exchange in the next few weeks. The Kremlin confirmed that consultations on the matter were underway. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky was hopeful that the swap would take place in the coming days.

On Friday, Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova arrived in Kiev though her agenda remains unknown. Ukrainian Parliament’s Human Rights Ombudsperson Lyudmila Denisova is also in Kiev at the moment.

Russians’ cases

In November 2016, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) had abducted Corporal Maxim Odintsov and First Sergeant Alexander Baranov, both of them servicemen in the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The Ukrainian spy agency had snatched them from Crimea to the Nikolayev region in southern Ukraine. According to the report, the SBU duped the two men into entering the territory of Ukraine using frontmen, allegedly "to hand to them the authenticated documents confirming their graduation from a Ukrainian university." The two were tried for high treason. In February 2018, Odintsov was sentenced to 14 years in prison and Baranov was handed a 13-year sentence.

As for Mefedov, he was accused of instigating riots in Odessa in May 2014 along with a number of other anti-Maidan activists (the term "Maidan" was coined after Kiev’s central Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti, to refer to anti-government riots). In September 2017, a court in the town of Chernomorsk, Odessa region, found all anti-maidan activists, including Mefedov, not guilty. However immediately after the verdict was pronounced, the SBU brought further charges against Mefedov, accusing him of infringing upon Ukraine’s territorial integrity. On August 16, the Central District Court in Nikolayev ruled that the Russian could be released on bail. The bail amount was gathered with the assistance of Ukraine’s Opposition Platform — For Life party.