Prisoner Swap Includes MH17 Crash Suspect

French Defense Minister Florence Parly gives a press conference following her meeting with her Russian counterpart in Moscow on Monday. — AFP

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini called the prisoners' exchange a "testimony to the work and determination of those, including civil society, activists, and legal experts, who have worked tirelessly for this outcome".

In August 2015, a Russian court sentenced a celebrated Ukrainian film director, Oleg Sentsov, to 20 years in penal advanced on bogus terrorism prices.

Dutch prosecutors previously urged Kiev not to allow Tsemakh to travel to Russian Federation, fearing this could jeopardize the investigation into Flight MH17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands Stef Bok in a letter addressed to the president of the country's parliament informed him of the latest events involving suspect Volodymyr Tsemakh in the downing of the Boeing Malaysia Airline flight MH17. On Twitter after the exchange was completed, he wrote, "Our boys are home".

"Russia is a hostile marketplace for prisoners but one hopes the total Ukrainian prisoners shall be exchanged and no one is left on the wait on of". Yet, days earlier US President Donald Trump's suggestion that Moscow rejoin the G7 (turning it into G8 again) would also be a "strategic error".

Only few Russian nationals are part of the prisoner swap.

He welcomed recent statements by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as "very, very positive" and described the prisoner exchange as "a good sign" for future progress.

Other observers also suggested the exchange could contribute to peace.

While the exchange of 35 prisoners on each side could help rebuild confidence between Moscow and Kiev and allow them to start negotiating seriously on other issues, any road to a full rapprochement is likely to be long and complex.

"I was timorous the swap would fail", Zelensky admitted to journalists on Saturday when asked in regards to the birth of one of these smooth prisoner. He was considered Ukraine's number one political prisoner in Russian Federation.

A Russian lawyer who has defended a Ukrainian imprisoned for spying says a widely anticipated exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine is underway. Many more steps are still needed to fulfill the Minsk agreements.

The US and the United Kingdom led the charge to impose sanctions on Moscow over Crimea and pressured France to cancel the sale of the Mistrals, which had already been built to Russian specifications.

But the promises came to nothing and the conflict went on, claiming 13,000 lives so far, and prompting an European Union and United States sanctions regime.

However, reaching a peace agreement faces many obstacles, such as determining the final territorial status of rebel-held areas.

Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov with his family and media at Borispil International Airport near Kiev.

Saturday's exchange was "a very important step", Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

A long-awaited prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine has taken place, raising hopes of renewed efforts to end the war in Ukraine's east between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.

"We have made the first step", he added.

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