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Planes carrying captives freed by Russia and Ukraine land ahead of prisoner swap

Planes carrying captives freed by Russia and Ukraine land ahead of prisoner swap

Planes carrying prisoners freed by Russia and Ukraine have landed in the countries’ capitals, in an exchange that could spark improved relations between the nations. The planes, carrying 70 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously at Vnukovo airport in Moscow and at Kiev’s Boryspil airport. As a result of five years of bitter conflict, dozens of prisoners

Planes carrying prisoners freed by Russia and Ukraine have landed in the countries’ capitals, in an exchange that could spark improved relations between the nations.

The planes, carrying 70 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously at Vnukovo airport in Moscow and at Kiev’s Boryspil airport.

As a result of five years of bitter conflict, dozens of prisoners have been held by the two ex-Soviet countries. 

At the Ukrainian capital’s airport, relatives stood on the tarmac waving as the plane taxied towards them. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was also present.

Planes carrying prisoners freed by Russia and Ukraine have landed in the countries' capitals, in an exchange that could spark improved relations between the nations

Planes carrying prisoners freed by Russia and Ukraine have landed in the countries’ capitals, in an exchange that could spark improved relations between the nations

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (right) greeted Ukrainian prisoners upon their arrival at Boryspil airport

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (right) greeted Ukrainian prisoners upon their arrival at Boryspil airport

The planes, each reportedly carrying 35 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously at Vnukovo airport in Moscow and at Kiev's Boryspil airport

The planes, each reportedly carrying 35 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously at Vnukovo airport in Moscow and at Kiev’s Boryspil airport

Those released by Russia reportedly included Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov (pictured with his daughter) who were convicted of plotting terrorist acts

Those released by Russia reportedly included Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov (pictured with his daughter) who were convicted of plotting terrorist acts

Those released by Russia reportedly include Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, convicted of plotting terrorist acts. 

Other prisoners from the Russian side include 24 Ukrainian sailors who were detained last November by the Russian navy off the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

A prisoner exchange could be a significant step toward easing Russia-Ukraine relations and raising chances for resolving the conflict in Ukraine’s east. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Saturday hailed the swapas a ‘sign of hope’ and called for the implementation of a 2015 ceasefire deal that Paris and Berlin helped broker.

Relatives of Ukrainian prisoners freed by Russia greet them upon their arrival at Boryspil airport. Prisoners from the Russian side included 24 Ukrainian sailors who were detained last November

Relatives of Ukrainian prisoners freed by Russia greet them upon their arrival at Boryspil airport. Prisoners from the Russian side included 24 Ukrainian sailors who were detained last November

Vyacheslav Zinchenko, a crew member of Ukrainian naval ships, which were seized by Russia's FSB security service in 2018, is greeted by his relatives

Vyacheslav Zinchenko, a crew member of Ukrainian naval ships, which were seized by Russia’s FSB security service in 2018, is greeted by his relatives

At the Ukrainian capital's airport, relatives stood on the tarmac waving as the plane taxied towards them

At the Ukrainian capital’s airport, relatives stood on the tarmac waving as the plane taxied towards them

A prisoner exchange could be a significant step toward easing Russia-Ukraine relations and raising chances for resolving the conflict in Ukraine's east

A prisoner exchange could be a significant step toward easing Russia-Ukraine relations and raising chances for resolving the conflict in Ukraine’s east

‘This exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine is a sign of hope… it’s worth continuing the hard work to implement the Minsk accord,’ Merkel said in a statement put out by her spokesman Steffen Seibert on Twitter.

Fighting between troops and Russia-backed separatists in the area has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014.

Buses from a Moscow prison believed to be carrying Ukrainian prisoners arrived at the capital’s Vnukovo airport on Saturday.

Relatives were emotional as they arrived at the airport in Ukraine upon being released

Relatives were emotional as they arrived at the airport in Ukraine upon being released 

Zinchenko hugs a tearful relative. Fighting between troops and Russia-backed separatists in the area has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014

Zinchenko hugs a tearful relative. Fighting between troops and Russia-backed separatists in the area has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014

Attorney Mark Feigin tweeted that the exchange is underway, and prisoners include the Ukrainian journalist Mr Sushchenko who he has represented.

Film director Oleg Sentsov is the most prominent of the Ukrainian prisoners held by Russia.

In 2015, he was sentenced to 20 years in a Russian Arctic penal colony on terror charges after a trial that Amnesty International likened to a Stalin-era show trial.

During court appearances, he remained unbroken, often smiling, singing the Ukrainian anthem and making defiant comments.

Film director Oleg Sentsov is the most prominent of the Ukrainian prisoners held by Russia

Film director Oleg Sentsov is the most prominent of the Ukrainian prisoners held by Russia

Sentsov, 43, opposed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, where he lived.

He was sent to a strict-regime penal colony on the remote Yamal peninsula where he spent 145 days without solid food last year, demanding the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners.

His severe health problems and support from international film stars including Johnny Depp did not cause the Kremlin to budge.

Another Ukrainian, Alexander Kolchenko, who was convicted as Sentsov’s co-defendant with a lower sentence, was also picked for release.

Buses from a Moscow prison believed to be carrying Ukrainian prisoners arrived at the capital's Vnukovo airport on Saturday

Buses from a Moscow prison believed to be carrying Ukrainian prisoners arrived at the capital’s Vnukovo airport on Saturday

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