Ukraine Prisoner Exchange Takes Place—or Maybe Not

Reports conflict, AP can't independently confirm
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 26, 2014 12:02 PM CST
Ukraine Prisoner Exchange Takes Place—or Maybe Not
Women residents pass by a group of the Ukrainian government army soldiers in the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Wednesday, Dec 24, 2014.   (Sergei Chuzavkov)

A major exchange of war prisoners was embroiled in controversy today, with some reports saying it has been completed and others saying it had has been pushed back a day. Russia's Interfax news agency said the exchange had been completed successfully on neutral ground between the sectors controlled by the insurgents and the government forces, but the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted separatist rights ombudsman Darya Morozova saying that the exchange was pushed back until tomorrow. The conflicting reports couldn't be independently confirmed. The pro-Russia rebels had been set to release 150 Ukrainian prisoners in exchange for the Ukrainian government releasing 222 captives, Ukrainian and rebel officials said.

The exchange had been tentatively planned for earlier this week, and the failure to conduct it pushed back another round of Ukraine peace talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, which was set for today but was adjourned indefinitely. Previous rounds of talks in September produced a cease-fire and an agreement to pull back heavy weapons, but both sides have failed to agree on a line of division and fighting, which has claimed more than 4,700 lives since last spring, continued. Ukraine's parliament vote earlier this week to abandon the country's non-aligned status, a first step toward a possible bid for NATO membership which is anathema to Moscow, also has hampered talks. Amid the tensions, Ukraine on Friday suspended train and bus services to the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, citing security concerns. (More Ukraine stories.)

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