Ukraine and rebels swap captives

Written By komlim puldel on Sabtu, 27 Desember 2014 | 20.01

Ukraine's president welcomes home prisoners of war freed under an exchange deal with pro-Russian separatists. Rough cut (no reporter narration).

UKRAINE and pro-Russian rebels are set to complete a swap of hundreds of prisoners as part of a new push for peace in Crimea, despite Kiev's decision to cut off key transport.

The dispute between the Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels is believed to be behind the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which killed 283 passengers and 15 crew in July.

The prisoner swap involved 222 guerillas and 145 Ukrainian troops.

The exchange began Friday and unfolded as negotiators from both sides held video talks on Skype.

Ukrainian prisoners stand as a militant of the self-proclaimed "People's Republic of Donetsk" stands guard during a prisoner exchange with Ukraine. Pic: AFP PHOTO / VASILY MAXIMOV Source: AFP

The video conferences have so far failed to produce a new date for direct talks between the two groups.

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On Friday the Ukraine suspended all bus and rail services to Crimea, severing the peninsula and 2.3 million from the mainland.

WORLD NEWS:

Some of the captives expressed surprise and joy at having the chance to go home in time for New Year's Eve — the most cherished of all the holidays celebrated in once-communist eastern Europe.

"They only just told us that this would happen," said a slightly older Ukrainian soldier named Artyom Syurik.

"I am looking forward to seeing my parents and wife. They do not know I am coming." Yet a rebel named Denis Balbukov sounded defiant as he sat in a Kamaz truck waiting to go home to Donetsk.

Russians, back to camera at right, and Ukrainians prepare for an exchange of prisoners outside Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Pic: AP Photo/Alexander Ermochenko Source: AP

Simmering East-West tensions over Ukraine prompted the Kremlin on Friday to publishe a revised and more aggressive military doctrine that decries the "reinforcement of NATO's offensive capacities on Russia's borders".

Moscow accuses Washington of orchestrating weeks of deadly protests in Kiev last winter that toppled an unpopular Russian-backed president and saw Ukraine anchor its future with the West.

The Minsk talks were meant to end the diplomatic jousting by reinforcing two compromise September deals that preserve Ukraine as a single nation in which the Russian-border regions enjoy more self-rule.


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