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Poroshenko keeps close eye on preparations for prisoner swap, says Kiev envoy

Prisoner exchanges in the all-for-all format is one of the key provisions of the Minsk peace deal
Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko  AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov
Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko
© AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov

KIEV, December 12. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko personally controls the upcoming prisoner swap, Kiev’s envoy to the Contact Group for the settlement in eastern Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, told reporters on Tuesday.

"President Poroshenko is also personally engaged in this issue, so let him hold all the cards and let the promise voiced by him and other leaders become a reality," Kuchma said. "When both the Russian and Ukrainian presidents have said they will do it, this must be done no matter what," the representative said.

Kuchma believes the date for the prisoner exchange has already been fixed. "I think the date [for the prisoner swap] has already been fixed. At least each time the sides meet, they set for themselves a final reference point as to where they would want to meet and hand them over," Internet edition quoted him as saying.

Kuchma already mentioned the coordinated lists of 74 and 308 prisoners to be exchanged. He said one of the problems in preparations for the swap is that some of the individuals requested by the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics don’t want to return to Donbass.

He expressed an opinion that Ukraine could make some concessions for the swap to take place, with the exception of the people whose names have already been coordinated.

Kuchma also expressed confidence that the agreements will be reached, and said he hoped people will be released before the New Year and Christmas holidays.

Prisoner exchanges in the all-for-all format is one of the key provisions of the Package of Measures on the implementation of the Minsk agreements that was signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk on February 12 after marathon talks between the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine. However, there have been no exchanges in the past 14 months.

In mid-November, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Choice public movement and Kiev’s representative to the humanitarian subgroup of the Contact Group, who asked the Russian leader to support his initiative concerning the prisoner swap. According to Medvedchuk, Ukraine is ready to release 306 people and expects Donetsk and Lugansk to release 74 people before the holiday season.

Later, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said Putin had spoken over the phone with the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics who supported the idea in general. After that, Kiev said it was ready to carry out prisoner swap before the New Year holidays but would need some time to organize the procedure.