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.


UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

Updated 15 September 2019

UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

  • Johnson said he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what
  • “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the Mail

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.
Johnson faces considerable legal and political hurdles but told the Mail on Sunday he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the widely read tabloid, invoking the comic book and film character known for formidable but destructive strength.
Johnson remains defiant even though Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October. He has also lost his working majority in Parliament and been told by Scotland’s highest court that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Johnson portrays himself as more convinced than ever that Britain will break with the EU at the end of October.
He will have a lunchtime meeting in Luxembourg on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to modify the Irish backstop that has been a main sticking point, but EU leaders did not seem impressed by Johnson’s invocation of the Hulk.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?“
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”
The Oct. 31 deadline looms large because Johnson has not said he will seek another extension if no deal is reached, despite legislation passed by Parliament shortly before it was suspended.
Britain’s Supreme Court this week will rule on whether Johnson overstepped the law when he shut the legislature for a crucial five-week period.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been enjoying a revival, voted overwhelmingly at their party conference Sunday to end the Brexit process entirely if they come to power.
Party leader Jo Swinson said Article 50, which triggered Brexit, would be revoked if she becomes prime minister.
The party gained an important member Saturday with the defection of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative minister. He is the sixth legislator to switch allegiance and join the Liberal Democrats this year.
Johnson also continues to take flak from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the 2016 referendum on Brexit.
Cameron said in an interview published Sunday that Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit when he broke ranks and led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Cameron had been expecting Johnson’s help during the hard-fought campaign.
Cameron says of Johnson: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
Cameron is giving interviews to gain publicity for his upcoming memoirs.