Officials in Russia and Ukraine indicated that the two countries are gearing up for a major prisoner swap. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Russian news agencies Monday the two countries are discussing a swap involving 24 Ukrainians captured in the Sea of Azov last December. Earlier, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's office said that it is likely that a Russian journalist kept in detention in Ukraine is likely to be released.
The Russian envoy for human rights, Svetlana Moskalkova, arrived in Ukraine yesterday on a rare visit and held talks about the captured prisoners with her Ukrainian counterpart. The flurry of activity around the imprisoned Russians and Ukrainians follows last week's first telephone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Ties between Ukraine and Russia deteriorated after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backed separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine says Russia then engineered quasi-separatist uprisings, which later escalated into a full-scale conflict. Russia denies doing so. Two so-called "People's Republics" have formed in the Donetsk and Luhansk industrial regions of eastern Ukraine, also known as Donbass.
The February 2015 Minsk Agreements, agreed by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, set out the necessary steps to stop violence against civilians in eastern Ukraine. However, the peace talks could not produce a breakthrough over issues relating to the settlement of the Ukraine crisis.
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