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Russians kept in Ukrainian prisons to be exchanged for Ukrainians convicted in Russia

President Pyotr Poroshenko said more efforts will be taken to have ukrainian citizens released from Russian prisons
Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov
Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko
© AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov

KIEV, December 28. /TASS/. Kiev did not release Russian citizen during Wednesday’s prisoner exchange in Donbass as it plans to swap them for Ukrainians serving prison terms in Russia, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko said on Thursday.

"More efforts will be taken to have our citizens released from Russian prisons, from occupied Crimea. And this is why we released no Russia today," Ukraine’s media outlet Strana quoted him as saying. According to Poroshenko, more than 15 Russians kept in Ukrainian prisons would be exchanged for Ukrainian nationals serving prison terms in Russia.

Poroshenko dodged answering a journalist’s question why there were so many Ukrainian nationals among those handed over to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics (DPR and LPR). "We handed over nothing to anyone, we released these people," he said.

Meanwhile, commenting on the exchange of Ukrainian citizens for Ukrainian citizens, experts and internet users noted that such things are only possible in case of a civil war. Kiev however avoids this notion, saying instead that it is conducting an "anti-terrorist operation" or is "rebuffing Russian aggression" in Donbass.

Director of Ukraine’s Institute of Legal Policy and Social Protection Elena Berezhnaya said earlier in the day that Russian national Yevgeny Mefedov who had not been released by Kiev during Wednesday’s prisoner exchange with Donbass’ self-proclaimed republics would be taken back to a detention center in Odessa. She also said that other Russian citizens, whose pre-trial restrictions had been changed before the swap, were to be taken to court to put into custody again.

On Wednesday, Berezhnaya said that the Ukrainian side had not released 14 Russian nationals whose names were on the exchange lists, despite the fact that they had not objected against the swap.

Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Choice public movement and Kiev’s representative to the humanitarian subgroup of the Contact Group, said that some of the people had been released from prisons earlier and so they could not participate in the exchange, while some had refused to return to the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass. Besides, Russian citizens were crossed off the list as they, as he claimed, could be handed over only through diplomatic channels in line with the current international convention.

Along with a number of other anti-maidan [the term ‘maidan’ was coined after Kiev’s central Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti, to refer to anti-government riots] activists, Mefedov was accused of instigating riots in Odessa in May 2014, when 48 people died in fire at the local Trade Unions House. On September 18, 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, Ukraine’s Security Service brought further charges against Mefedov, accusing him of infringing upon Ukraine’s territorial integrity.