Ukraine′s Poroshenko greets freed soldiers | News | DW | 27.12.2014
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Ukraine's Poroshenko greets freed soldiers

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has greeted 145 soldiers who were released by pro-Russian separatists in a prisoner swap. Separatist fighters have also been released by Ukraine.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko shook hands and embraced the men after they landed at a military airport near the capital, Kyiv, early Saturday.

"My heart as a president and citizen is brimming with joy that you - as I had promised - will be able to meet the New Year with your families and comrades in arms," Poroshenko told the released men.

The separatists freed 145 men on Friday, while Kyiv released 222 separatist fighters. A deal agreed to by Ukraine and the separatists with the help of mediators from Europe and Russia on Wednesday called for the release of 150 Ukrainian soldiers and 225 separatists.

It was expected that the remainder of those prisoners were due to be swapped on Saturday in another part of eastern Ukraine.

A second leg of talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, due for Friday, was canceled. No official reason has been given. Aside from the prisoner swap, one of the main goals was to secure a shaky ceasefire previously agreed to back in September.

More than 4,600 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since fighting broke out between Kyiv soldiers and separatists in April following Russia's annexation of Crimea. Ukraine and Western nations accuse Russia of supporting the rebels with military aid, a charge which Moscow has denied.

Ukraine on Friday also suspended bus and rail transport services to the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March.

se/es (AFP, dpa)

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