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article imageRebels in Eastern Ukraine in prisoner swap with Ukraine

By Ken Hanly     Dec 26, 2014 in Politics
Minsk - Although talks in Minsk so far have not reached a peace deal, there has been agreement between the eastern rebels and the Ukraine to swap prisoners, a pleasant Xmas gift for many families on both sides.
The exchange took place near the rebel-held city of Donetsk. According to the BBC the Ukraine exchanged 222 prisoners held by them for 150 soldiers held by the rebels. The Russian news agency Ria-Novosti said that the exchange took place 35 km or 22 miles north of the city of Donetsk. However, there were also some photos taken of Ukrainian soldiers in Luhansk where their mothers had come to claim them. They were apparently three who were released this Friday.
In spite of the agreement on the prisoner exchange, the talks in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, broke up back on Wednesday and no date was set for their continuation. The meeting was among the Ukraine, Russia, the rebels, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and lasted for five hours.
Among the costs of the rebellion so far are 4,707 killed, including 36 children. Over ten thousand have been wounded. Over half a million are internally displaced and even more are refugees outside the Ukraine. A truce was announced originally in September, but has been broken numerous times with more than 1300 killed since then. However, since prime minister Petro Poroshenko announced a Day of Silence in early December, conflict has been much reduced even though both sides claim the other has broken the truce. The Ukrainian government accuses Russia of actively supporting the rebels. While Russia denies this it does admit that some members of its regular forces are fighting in the Ukraine as volunteers. There is evidence that Russia is also providing supplies and equipment for the rebels.
Although no final peace deal has been reached, Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the rebel group, told Interfax news on December 25th there would be more talks in the coming days though he did not give a date for resumption of the talks. The parties failed to agree to meet on Friday.
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