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Moscow hands over to Kiev 12 Ukrainian citizens serving prison sentences in Crimea

MOSCOW, March 17. /TASS/. Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service has handed over to Ukraine 12 Ukrainian citizens, who were serving their prison sentences in Crimea at the time of its reunification with Russia, the service’s press service told TASS.

Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova was present at the handover which took place at the Nekhoteyevka-Goptovka checkpoint in Russia’s Belgorod region. The prisoners will now continue serving their sentences in Ukraine.

Mikhail Chaplyga, spokesman for the Ukrainian ombudsperson, confirmed the handover. "The handover of 12 persons took place at the Goptovka checkpoint," he said.

Handover issue

In May 2016, Russia’s human rights ombudsperson contacted her Ukrainian counterpart in connection with two Ukrainian citizens jailed in Crimea. She called upon Kiev to take its citizens from Russia as they had been convicted in accordance with the Ukrainian law and should serve their sentences in Ukraine rather than in a foreign country. A handover agreement was reached at a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian ombudspersons in June 2016.

On January 23, 2017, Russia’s Justice Ministry said that Ukraine had agreed to accept its citizens who had been convicted by Ukrainian courts before March 18, 2014, when Crimea reunited with Russia, and had been serving their sentences in the Crimean prisons controlled by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service.

Initially, 18 convicts were planned to be handed over to Ukraine, however, a few of them turned out to be holders of Russian citizenship while a few others had been paroled.

When Crimea was part of Ukraine, there were two penal colonies, one pretrial detention center and one correction center on the peninsula, where around 3,000 prisoners were kept. However, after Crimea’s reunification with Russia, most of them, being Crimeans, applied for Russian citizenship.