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28 December 2017, 12:37 | Rufus Hill
Iryna Gerashchenko"We're working even on board the plane
Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have begun a major prisoner swap, Russian news agencies report said on Wednesday.
Ukrainian forces and separatists backed by Russian Federation have fought for control of the country's eastern flank since 2014, in a bloody war that has killed more than 10,000 combatants and civilians.
Russian state media reported Monday that Ukraine had agreed to release 306 prisoners in exchange for 74 being held by separatists.
A Reuters photographer at the scene saw the Ukrainian prisoners being loaded onto buses in the town of Horlivka and taken to territory controlled by the Ukrainian government.
On Tuesday, Poroshenko met with the relatives of the hostages, saying: "Nothing is more important than to return our people home", according to a presidential statement.
The warring parties signed the Minsk cease-fire agreement in February 2015, with the mediation of France and Germany, but the fighting continued, claiming more than 10,000 lives, according to the UN. The exchange of prisoners could affect 380 people in eastern rebel area of Ukraine.
Martin Sajdik, of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, welcomed the exchange, saying it had always been awaited by the prisoners and their families. Although once again no agreement was reached for an exchange of ' all for all ', bartering is a first step towards achieving this goal. "I call upon the sides to provide conditions of dignity and respect for each of the persons to be exchanged".
Family and friends of the freed Ukrainian prisoners gathered at Kiev's Borispol airport where the former captives were expected to arrive on Wednesday evening. The Ukrainian state security service said 103 prisoners remained in separatist hands.
"There is good news of which we can say already".
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the USA decision to supply Ukraine with anti-tank weapons meant the United States "is clearly pushing [Ukraine] to new bloodshed".
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