Kiev, pro-Russian separatists exchange hostages
Scores of hostages were exchanged on Wednesday between the Kiev administration and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, according to local media, APA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.
The Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the exchange of 74 Ukrainian hostages through his Facebook account.
"All 74 Ukrainian hostages are already at home, in the territory controlled by our army," Poroshenko was quoted as saying by the agency.
On Tuesday, Poroshenko met with the relatives of the hostages, saying: "Nothing is more important than to return our people home," according to a presidential statement.
The hostage exchange at the Mayorsk control gate in the Donetsk region was attended by Ukrainian authorities and representatives of the separatists, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Separately, Viktor Medvedchuk, representative of Ukraine in the subgroup for humanitarian issues of the Trilateral Contact Group -- a group also including the Russian Federation and the OSCE -- said that 237 pro-Russia separatist hostages were handed over to the so-called Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Under the 2015 Minsk Agreement to stop the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Kiev administration and pro-Russia separatists must release captives, but to date hostage exchanges have been little seen.
The first exchange in 14 months followed a decision by the parties at a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group last week in the Belarusian capital Minsk.
Ukrainian officials stated earlier that they had agreed to the exchange of 74 Ukrainian hostages for 306 separatist hostages, the biggest exchange so far in terms of numbers.
The warring parties signed the Minsk cease-fire agreement in February 2015, with the mediation of France and Germany, but the fighting continued, claiming more than 10,000 lives, according to the UN.
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