Kyiv: Russia still holds nearly 100 Ukrainian political prisoners
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has urged the global community to put pressure on Russia to release all of the political prisoners it is holding in Russia and the occupied territories. In a post on Facebook, the department said that roughly 100 Ukrainians will be “celebrating” Christmas in Russian prisons. In both Russia and Ukraine, the Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7, in accordance with the Julian calendar.
“Several Ukrainian political prisoners have been released and returned home to their families and friends, but for years they did not see their loved ones, and they ‘celebrated’ many holidays in prison. Taking this into account, our New Year’s resolution is to do everything we can to ensure that our people return home, and we really need your support too!” the department said on Facebook.
The ministry published a video of the Ukrainian political prisoners who have already been released, including Roman Sushchenko, Artur Panov, Mykola Karpyuk and others.
On December 29, 2019, Ukraine and the Russia-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics exchanged prisoners. 76 Ukrainians returned from the separatist-held territory, but four decided to remain with their families in the separatist-controlled territories.
The released Ukrainians included 12 soldiers and 64 civilians, including drivers who had transported passengers across the demarcation line and locals accused of working for the Ukrainian Security Service.
Ukraine handed 127 people over to the separatists, while another 14 refused to return to the temporarily separatist-held territory. Ukraine even handed over five former Berkut (special police) officers who were accused of shooting 48 unarmed people in Kyiv in February 2014.
Ukraine and Russia also exchanged prisoners in September 2019, in the format “35 for 35”. Russia returned to Ukraine the 24 sailors captured in the Kerch Strait incident and 11 political prisoners: Roman Sushchenko, Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Volodymyr Balukh, Stanislav Klykh, Mykola Karpuk, Olexii Syzonovych, Pavlo Hryb, Edem Bekirov, Yevhen Panov and Artur Panov.