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Thursday, February 2, 2023
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Prisoner Swap between Russia & Ukraine; Why are they so Important?

Russia and Ukraine prisoner swap is about to happen and the world knows almost nothing about the prisoners who are about to be swapped. Why are they so important and what crimes made them a prisoner in another country.

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Speculation is rife that a prisoner swap could be imminent between Russia and Ukraine, in what would be a first step in easing tensions.

As a result of five years of bitter conflict, dozens of prisoners are being held by the two countries. Here are the high-profile prisoners who could be involved:

Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov

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Film director Oleg Sentsov is the most prominent of the Ukrainian prisoners in Russia. In 2015 he was sentenced to 20 years in a penal colony on terror charges after a trial that Amnesty International likened to a Stalin-era show trial.

During court appearances, he remained unbroken, often smiling, singing the Ukrainian anthem and making defiant comments.

While the Ukrainians detained by Russia who could take part in an exchange are largely known, only a few names have been made public of prisoners who could be handed to Moscow

Sentsov, 43, opposed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, where he lived. He was sent to a strict-regime penal colony on the remote Yamal peninsula where he spent 145 days without solid food last year, demanding the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners. His severe health problems and support from international film stars did not cause the Kremlin to budge.

Another Ukrainian, Alexander Kolchenko, who was convicted as Sentsov’s co-defendant with a lower sentence, could also be picked for release.

Russian journalist Vyshynsky

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A journalist for Russia’s state-funded RIA Novosti news agency, 52-year-old Kyrylo Vyshynsky was detained last year in Kiev and charged with “high treason” in the interests of Moscow. He has dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship.

Russia has loudly denounced his detention. On Wednesday he was released pending his trial on condition he does not flee Ukraine.

24 Ukrainian sailors

Russian coastguards captured 24 Ukrainian sailors off the coast of Crimea in November last year after seizing their ships.

They are set to go on trial for violating Russia’s maritime borders, while Ukraine insists that it warned Russia of their route and they were heading for the Sea of Azov shared by both countries.

Ukraine’s Klykh and Karpyuk

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Stanislav Klykh, 45, is a history professor while Mykola Karpyuk, 55, is a senior member of two Ukrainian nationalist protest groups.

They were arrested in Moscow in 2014 and handed lengthy sentences for fighting against Russian armed forces in the 1990s Chechnya war. Both men said they confessed after being tortured.

Ukrainian blogger Gryb

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Pavlo Gryb, a 21-year-old blogger, is the youngest Ukrainian prisoner. Kiev said he was kidnapped by Russian special forces in Belarus where he went to visit a friend.

Russia sentenced him to six years in prison after being found guilty of inciting a friend to carry out a bombing.

Ukrainian journalist Sushchenko

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Roman Sushchenko, 50, was Paris correspondent for Ukraine’s Ukrinform national news agency.

He was detained while on holiday in Moscow and last year sentenced to 12 years for espionage after he was accused of serving in Ukrainian military intelligence and gathering Russian state secrets.

Crimea deserters

Ukraine accused Maxim Odintsov and Alexander Baranov of deserting from its armed forces and joining the Russian army during the annexation of Crimea.

Odintsov and Baranov were detained at the administrative frontier between Ukraine and Crimea in 2016 and sentenced respectively to 14 and 13 years in prison for treason and desertion.

Read more: Russia-Ukraine tensions: Is world headed towards WW III?

A former Ukrainian riot policeman, Alexander Sattarov, was detained in Kiev for taking part in Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He has not been sentenced.

Separatist fighters?

While the Ukrainians detained by Russia who could take part in an exchange are largely known, only a few names have been made public of prisoners who could be handed to Moscow.

Ukraine’s former prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko nevertheless said that Kiev was holding “2,000 people accused of terrorism”.

It is unlikely that separatist fighters detained by Kiev would be part of a broad prisoner exchange with Moscow, however, as such swaps are generally held directly with the separatist authorities.

AFP with additional input by GVS news desk