The plane with 35 Ukrainian citizens aboard landed at Borispil International Airport. Among them there were journalist Roman Suschenko, film director Oleh Sentsov, as well as 24 sailors captured at the Kerch Strait last November.
And another thirty-five detainees went to Russia. According to Ukrainian news reports, eleven persons had been pardoned, 19 had their preventive restriction revoked, two prisoners had been released before the exchange and one person had already been handed to the Russian side.
President Volodymyr Zelensky met the Ukrainian citizens at the airport. He said that both sides had fulfilled the agreements with President Putin completely.
“I believe that the first step has been taken. I have to confirm that we, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, have fulfilled everything that we have promised”, stressed Zelensky. He also dislosed that the prisoners’ exchange had been conducted in absolute secrecy because “we knew that not all wanted their return”.
On the same day, the presidents of Ukraine and Russia held a telephone conversation. According to the Office of the Ukrainian President, the head of States were satisfied with the results of the implementation of the reached agreements, which may be regarded as the first stage in normalizing the bilateral dialog. The presidents agreed to discuss as soon as possible the date of a future meeting within the Normandy Format.
Besides, the presidents also discussed further steps under the Minsk Agreements to settle the conflict in Donbas.
According to the statement released by the press service of the Champs Elysees Palace, in commenting the prisoners’ exchange, President of France Emannuel Macron referred to it as a decisive step toward the renewing of a constructive dialog that must be continued in the nearest weeks.
The French President was quoted as saying, “France together with Germany is going to step up its efforts within the Normandy Format to ensure more progress in realizing the political component of the Minsk Agreements”.
American President Donald Trump also believes that the exchange of the detainees carried out by Russia and Ukraine may become the first step towards peace. He wrote on Twitter, “Russia and Ukraine just swapped large number of prisoners. Very good news, perhaps a first giant step to peace. Congratulations to both countries!”
President of the European Council Donald Tusk welcomed the news about the release of Oleh Sentsov and the Ukrainian sailors and called for Russia to release all political prisoners and respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Last Saturday, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel greeted the exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine. She in part said, “This act will encourage us all to work even harder on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. And the government of Germany is ready for this”.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres believes that “this important humanitarian act could serve as a positive step towards strengthening confidence among all, enabling regular and constructive dialogue at all levels with a view to paving the way to an eventual settlement of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine”.
The newspaper Holos Ukrainy