On May 4, a regular meeting of the Contact Group took place in the capital of the Republic of Belarus. The agenda of the meeting included issues of the observance of a cease-fire, implementation of the Agreement on Separation of Forces and Means, as well as preparation for prisoner exchange.
According to a source at the peace talks in Minsk, counterparts focused on the most critical problems, in particular the prisoner exchange, during the meeting of the Humanitarian Subgroup.
ʺThe last prisoner exchange took place on December 27, 2017. Initially, a meeting of the humanitarian subgroup reached an agreement on the release of 306 people in exchange for 74. However, subsequently, the number of people transferred was reduced by the Ukrainian side unreasonably and unilaterally, and, in fact, the Republics returned 231 people (Kiev did not returned 75 people under various pretexts). At the same time, 73 people were sent to the territory of Ukraine under agreements (one person refused to return to Ukraine’s territory).
As Poroshenko publicly stated, Kiev had not done anything to design the second phase of the prisoner exchange on “all for all” basis. Moreover, the Ukrainian side came up with a suggestion, which was absolutely unacceptable for Republics, to exchange on “27 for 10” formula in February, 2018. The Ukrainian side has not responded to any enquiries made by the Republics about the fate of detainees since January 10, 2018. Moreover, the representatives of Kiev officially stated that the leadership of the country had no concerted position concerning the prisoner exchange on “all for all” basis during the meeting of the Humanitarian Subgroup in Minsk on April 4, 2018. Instead, the Ukrainian side continues to delay the process by political statement on the need to include Ukrainian citizens, who convicted for crimes committed in the Russian Federation and serving sentences in the Russian Federation and who are not related to the conflict in Donbass, to exchange lists,ʺ a source said.
According to him, the representatives of the People’s Republics stated that information on inhuman conditions, in which prisoners were incarcerated in the territory of Ukraine, required special attention.
ʺThus, 95 per cent of released people were tortured. Prisoners, who returned to the territory of Republics as a result of exchange that took place on December 27, 2017, needed medical assistance. The bodies of forensic medical examination documented various degrees of bodily injuries as a result of violence caused to the released people during their stay in the penitentiary institution of Ukraine.
For instance, Nadezhda Kozlova (lower limb fracture), Leonid Belikov (jaw injury), Elena Petruk (upper limb fracture, gunshot wounds to the lower extremity), Kirill Filichkin (knife wound of lower extremities), Nikolai Korchagin (multiple maxillofacial traumas), Dmitry Tayursky (internal organs damage, absence of spleen). All these and other people who returned home were subjected to cruel and inhuman tortures while being detained in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian authorities,ʺ a source summed up.
It should be reminded that the Permanent Plenipotentiary Representative of the DPR in the Contact Group’s negotiations in Minsk, the Chairman of the DPR People’s Council Denis Pushilin stated that the process of prisoner exchange between the Donetsk People’s Republic and Ukraine still remains to be a bone of contention between the parties. ʺThis problem is constantly hampered, blocked and sabotaged by Ukraineʺ the Permanent Plenipotentiary Representative said. He reported that this very issue would be a key issue in the agenda of further round of negotiations of the Contact Group.
Let us ad that the last prisoner exchange that took place on December 27, 2017, was the largest one throughout the entire period of the conflict in Donbass. According to the results, the representatives of the People’s Republic voiced hope that the nest prisoner exchange would be held shortly and the parties achieve agreement of the desired “all for all” formula.