DONETSK, November 16. /TASS/. Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Alexander Zakharchenko stated that the initiative to exchange prisoners in Donbass fully corresponds to the principles supported by the republic, his press service said in a statement published on the Donetsk News Agency’s website.
"Yes, I supported Russian President [Vladimir Putin’s] initiative. The reason is simple: it does not run counter to our principles and the way the republic acted on the issue of detainees previously," the DPR head is quoted as saying.
"I agree with the Russian president’s position on the prisoner swap issue: We should be guided by humanist principles here. The detainees exchange should not remain an issue of war and trade. I’d like to reiterate that back in 2014, when hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen surrendered to us as POWs, I sent them back to their relatives and wives numerous times in return for a promise that they won’t return to the war," Zakharchenko noted.
He stressed that "the civil war will be won not by the one who is stronger on the battlefield," but by "he who is guided by moral principles, and maintains humanity."
"The fact that we uphold moral principles is proved by our reverent attitude towards POWs. And the fact that Ukraine’s authorities and punitive battalions controlled by them lost a human shape long ago is proved by the fact that our captured comrades are tortured to death. Even during the previous exchanges - and dozens of journalists may prove it - the detainees we returned to Kiev were healthy, cured at our expense, well-fed and clothed, whereas Kiev returned our comrades injured and close to death," the DPR head added.
Medvedchuk’s initiative and Putin’s support
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia visited the New Jerusalem Monastery in the town of Istra, Moscow Region. Putin also met there with the leader of the Ukrainian Choice - People’s Right public movement, Viktor Medvedchuk, who asked the president to support his initiative on the issue of prisoner exchanges between Ukraine and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. According to Medvedchuk, "Today, Ukraine is ready to release 306 people and expects Donetsk and Lugansk to release 74 people, and this could be done before the New Year and Christmas holidays."
"I’ll do everything that I can and will talk to the leadership of both the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics," the head of state said after listening to Medvedchuk’s proposal.
Later, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov reported that "after Viktor Medvedchuk’s address earlier in the day concerning support for this initiative by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Vladimir Putin talked over the phone to the leaders of the DPR and the LPR, Zakharchenko and [Igor] Plotnitsky."
"Putin told his interlocutors that he supports Medvedchuk’s proposal about a wide exchange of individuals detained by both sides," Peskov said. "Overall, Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky supported this initiative," the Kremlin press secretary added. "At the same time, they pointed out that this matter should be additionally worked out with representatives from the Ukrainian side," he noted.