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More Ukraine prisoner swaps expected

December 27, 2014

Ukraine and pro-Russia rebels are expected to carry out more prisoner swaps on Saturday, completing a deal agreed earlier in the week. It comes as Kyiv cut off transport services to Crimea.

Pro-russische Rebellen haben ukrainische Kriegsgefangene an deren Mütter übergeben
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Y. Streltsov

Further prisoner swaps are expected on Saturday between the Ukrainian government and rebels in the country's eastern region, after an initial swap took place on Friday.

"That exchange is taking place just north of Donetsk, very close to the front line," correspondent Kitty Logan told DW from Kyiv.

"We believe that most of it has been completed, some will be carried out tomorrow [Saturday]," Logan said.

The agreement to swap 150 Ukrainian soldiers for around 220 rebels was made on Wednesday in Minsk, during peace talks between envoys of Ukraine, Russia, the separatists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The second leg of the talks, due for Friday, was canceled. No official reason has been given, but it appears neither side was willing to give much ground. Aside from the prisoner swap, one of the main goals was to secure a shaky ceasefire previously agreed in the Belarusian capital back in September.

"Prisoner exchange is one of the points of the existing Minsk agreement, that both sides have always been able to agree upon... but essentially everything else that has been previously agreed in the Minsk deal simply has not played out in practice in the region," Logan said.

"So it's very difficult to see how both sides could come together to make further agreements in future."

Suspension of train, bus services to Crimea

More than 4,600 people have been killed since the fighting in the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk broke out in April, following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

The prisoner swap came as Kyiv announced the suspension of train and bus services to Crimea. Although Russia now controls Crimea, its only land link is with Ukraine and it has remained largely dependant on the Ukrainian mainland for supplies.

Ukraine and the West have accused Moscow of stoking the fires of conflict in eastern Ukraine by supplying the separatists with troops and weapons - a charge the Kremlin has denied.

In other developments, NATO has rejected a new military doctrine adopted by Russia that lists the Western alliance as its top security threat. A NATO spokesperson said Russia that was "undermining European security."

jr/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)