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Donetsk, Lugansk to unilaterally hand group of detainees to Ukraine

The group brings together women, elderly and severely ill persons

DONETSK/LUGANSK, January 16. /TASS/. The People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR respectively) will unilateral hand over a group of detainees to Ukraine with the mediation of Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of the Political Council of Ukraine’s Opposition Platform - For Life party, the Donbass republics said in a joint statement released on Saturday.

"The leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic alongside the leadership of the Lugansk People’s Republic decided to unilaterally hand some Ukrainian nationals held in custody over to the Ukrainian side with the mediation of Viktor Medvedchuk," says the republics’ statement obtained by TASS.

"He was notified of this decision in a relevant letter yesterday. The group brings together women, elderly and severely ill persons," the statement reads. The exact number of the detainees expected to be handed over to Kiev has not been reported yet.

In their statement, the DPR and LPR say that Ukraine will receive those who have not been involved in the fighting against the republics and who will not be able to do damage to Donbass and harm its people.

The statement does not set a date for the prisoner handover. Nevertheless, it says that the decision was made solely as a gesture of humanity and mercy ahead of one of the main Christian holidays - Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 19 by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

"That day is a good occasion to remember the importance of generosity, humanity and helping the neighbor, in spite of the fact that certain high-ranking officials in Kiev studiously ignore such ordinary, but fundamentally crucial concepts," the DPR and LPR foreign ministers state.

The ‘all-for-all’ prisoner exchange was among the agreements of the Normandy Four summit held in Paris in December 2019. Soon afterwards, on December 29, 2019, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and Ukraine exchanged large groups of detainees. The Donbass republics released 76 people, whereas Kiev handed back 124. On April 16, 2020, Kiev and the Donbass republics conducted another prisoner swap, with Kiev handing 14 people to the DPR and LPR and receiving 20. Nonetheless, the objective of exchanging ‘all for all’ stipulated in the Minsk accords has remained unresolved as of yet. Moreover, Ukraine has not fulfilled the agreement on "judicial clearance" of all the released detainees. In Ukraine, the individuals handed by Kiev to the Donbass republics are still on the wanted list.