The mutual exchange of prisoners by Ukraine and the separatists in the Donbas, agreed on within the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), took place on Sunday, December 29, near the Mayorsk checkpoint on the demarcation line in the Donetsk region. The Office of the President of Ukraine announced that the swap had been completed successfully. According to the report, 76 people were given back to Kyiv, and 124 people were returned to the self-proclaimed separatist republics of the Donbas.
The press service of Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation (JFO) in the Donbas had stated earlier on its Facebook page that the checkpoint would not be available for normal use on Sunday “for technical reasons”.
Russian and Ukrainian presidents Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to the prisoner swap at the start of December in Paris during the Normandy Format summit on the Donbas conflict.
They agreed to an exchange in the format “all for all” before the end of December, and the disengagement of forces at three points along the demarcation line.
It was reported previously that Ukraine was planning to hand over former members of the “Berkut” special division as part of the prisoner swap. Protesters rallied outside the Lukyanovsky detention center on December 28 to object to their release.
The last major prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine took place in September 2019. Each side released 35 people. One of the Ukrainians released was Oleh Sentsov, a filmmaker who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Russia for allegedly creating a “terrorist community” within Russia-annexed Crimea. The Ukrainian sailors who had been captured in the Kerch Strait incident were also returned to Ukraine.