Gorlovka, Dec 27 – DAN. The largest prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Donbass Republics in the history of the armed conflict has begun outside Gorlovka, at Mayorsk checkpoint, DAN correspondent reports.
Ukrainian detainees are sent to the 'grey zone' (between Ukrainian and DPR checkpoints). According to DPR Ombudswoman Daria Morozova press service, she is returning to the DPR checkpoint side to meet the liberated DPR residents. Their number is unknown at this point.
The DPR and LPR Ombudswomen Daria Morozova and Olga Kobtseva are present at the exchange, as well as Ukrainian special representative for humanitarian issues Viktor Medvedchuk, representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate and the OSCE SMM monitors.
Members of the DPR Defense Ministry and the State Security Ministry are providing security.
On December 25, the DPR Head Alexander Zakharchenko had a meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus Kirill; the DPR leader confirmed the republic is ready to carry out the swap. The next day, he signed a pardon decree concerning the persons to be returned to Ukraine.
Ukraine was expected to return over 300 people, while the DPR and LPR were to liberate over 70 people.
Last time, the exchange between Donbass and Ukraine took place in the autumn 2016, more than a year ago. Since that time all attempts to coordinate a new swop failed as Kiev protracted talks creating problems and pretexts. The telephone call from Russian president Vladimir Putin to DPR and leaders broke the ice on November 15, as the initiative of Ukrainian special representative for humanitarian issues Viktor Medvedchuk concerning the POWs swop was discussed. Shortly after, the DPR announced it is willing for the exchange which is to take place before the year ends. *ot