Preparations for Russia-Ukraine prisoner exchange underway

A Ukrainian serviceman who was made prisoner react during a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and pro-Russia rebels on December 27, 2018. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 September 2019

Preparations for Russia-Ukraine prisoner exchange underway

  • AFP correspondents at the scene saw two buses with tinted windows leaving the high-security prison in Moscow under a police convoy
  • On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said for the first time the “large-scale” prisoner exchange with Ukraine was being finalized

MOSCOW: A long-awaited exchange of prisoners between Moscow and Kiev has begun, Russian state television reported on Saturday, broadcasting footage of buses leaving a jail in the capital.

“Buses have left the Lefortovo jail within the framework of preparations for a prisoner exchange,” the Rossiya 24 rolling news channel said.

AFP correspondents at the scene saw two buses with tinted windows leaving the high-security prison in Moscow under a police convoy.
 




A police convoy escort two buses with tinted windows leaving the high-security prison of Lefortovo on September 7, 2019 in Moscow. (File/AFP)

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said for the first time the “large-scale” prisoner exchange with Ukraine was being finalized.

The Russian leader said the swap would be “a huge step toward normalizing relations” following comedian Volodymyr Zelensky’s rise to power in Kiev in May.

The Russian side found it difficult to agree to the names Ukraine had put forward for the swap, Putin added.

Last week media reports said a prisoner exchange between the two countries was imminent and some Ukrainian prisoners had been moved to Moscow from their jails. The apparent preparations then stalled.

It is unclear who will be part of the swap and Moscow has been tight-lipped. Film director and activist Oleg Sentsov, 43, has become Ukraine’s most famous political prisoner.

He was arrested in 2014 and has been serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian Arctic penal colony for planning “terrorist attacks” in Moscow-annexed Crimea.

Among other prisoners who could be eligible for a swap are 24 Ukrainian sailors captured last year.
Russia has been holding the sailors since seizing three vessels off Crimea last November in the most dangerous direct clash between Russia and Ukraine in years.

Some 13,000 people have been killed in Ukraine’s conflict with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, which broke out shortly after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.


Protests in New Delhi against India’s citizenship law ahead of Trump visit

Updated 23 February 2020

Protests in New Delhi against India’s citizenship law ahead of Trump visit

  • Hundreds of people supporting the new law clashed with those opposing it
  • The protest comes just a day before US President Donald Trump begins a two-day visit to India

NEW DELHI: Police used tear gas to disperse large crowds in India’s capital of New Delhi on Sunday in the latest eruption of violence at protests over a new citizenship law, police officials said.
Hundreds of people supporting the new law clashed with those opposing it, with the two groups pelting each other with stones in the Maujpur area in the northeastern part of the city, according to television footage.
“There must be some miscreants who want to spoil the peace in the area. We will identify them and take action against them,” Alok Kumar, a senior Delhi police official, told reporters about the protest.
“The situation is under control now,” he added.
The protest comes just a day before US President Donald Trump begins a two-day visit to India, where he is expected to raise the issue of religious freedom in the country with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, which eases the path for non-Muslims from neighboring Muslim-majority nations to gain citizenship, has triggered weeks of sometimes violent protests against Modi’s government.
The Indian law is seen by opponents as discriminating against Muslims and has deepened concerns that Modi’s administration is undermining India’s secular traditions.
Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party denies any bias against the country’s 180 million Muslims.
On Sunday, a separate protest also erupted in the northern Indian city of Aligarh, where protesters threw stones at the police, state administration official Chandra Bhushan Singh said.
The Internet in the area had been suspended until midnight, he added.