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Ukrainian forces and separatist militia carried out another prisoner exchange on Sept. 28. 

The two sides met at dusk on a road marked with rocket craters and a blown-up overpass about 30 kilometers north of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, where they swapped 30 prisoners each, according to Oksana Bylozir, a Ukrainian official in charge of arranging the exchanges. However, RIA Novosti, citing separatists sources, said that the Ukrainians handed over 60 prisoners.

Stepping out of a yellow bullet-riddled bus, a Ukrainian solder who gave only his first name, Alexey, said he had been captured by Russian soldiers in Ilovaisk, the site of a massacre that resulted in the murders of more than 100 of his comrades southeast of Donetsk on Aug. 24.

"Of course I remember when I was [taken]," he told reporters. "It was Independence Day, and we were captured by Russian soldiers. There were so many of them. So many."

Alexey said they had been encircled by Russian regular forces, who brought with them heavy armor, including several tanks.

Ukrainian prisoners of war stand ready to be exchanged for separatist fighters near Donetsk on Sept. 28. (Christopher J. Miller)

The two sides took turns swapping 10 prisoners for 10 prisoners until all 30 were safely inside each's buses. Several gunmen stood guard on both sides, their fingers resting near the triggers of their automatic rifles, all of which appeared to have their safeties switched off.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observed the prisoner exchange, which followed a preliminary peace deal during a meeting between Ukrainian and separatist representatives in Minsk on Sept. 5, and a second meeting on Sept. 19. The parties agreed during the second gathering on a cease-fire and the exchange of all prisoners. 

The sides also agreed to pull back armor and heavy artillery 15 kilometers in order to create a 30 kilometer buffer zone, and to open humanitarian corridors.

Despite the deal to release all prisoners, problems with their exchange have risen, due to teh vague language used in the Minsk protocol, Bylozir said. 

"We agreed to swap all for all, but there is no language about how exactly we do that," she said. "The mechanism was never worked out."

One thing that has become clear since the Minsk deal is that the separatists hold significantly more prisoners than the Ukrainian side, complicating matters more.

A separatist fighter captured by Ukrainian forces and then traded in a prisoner exchange waves as his bus pulls away near Donetsk on Sept. 28. (Christopher J. Miller)

At the exchange was a mother, Irina, who said her sone Vladimir was still being held by separatists somewhere in Donetsk. She has spoken with him by phone since he was captured while fighting in the region more than a month ago, she said. During the exchange on Sept. 28, she pleaded to separatist representatives to release him, and "on behalf of all the mothers of captured soldiers, please release them all."

As the buses pulled away, Irina walked back to her car, accompanied by a Ukrainian soldier, to spend another night away from her son.

"It will be another night of crying," she told the Kyiv Post. "But I believe he will be released. We will celebrate when he comes home."

At the exchange was a mother, Irina, who said her sone Vladimir was still being held by separatists somewhere in Donetsk. She has spoken with him by phone since he was captured while fighting in the region more than a month ago, she said. During the exchange on Sept. 28, she pleaded to separatist representatives to release him, and "on behalf of all the mothers of captured soldiers, please release them all."

As the buses pulled away, Irina walked back to her car, accompanied by a Ukrainian soldier, to spend another night away from her son.

"It will be another night of crying," she told the Kyiv Post. "But I believe he will be released. We will celebrate when he comes home."

Editor’s Note: This article has been produced for Kyivpost with support from www.mymedia.org.ua, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action, as well as Ukraine Media Project, managed by Internews and funded by the United States Agency for International Development

 

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Ukrainian forces and separatist militia carried out another prisoner exchange on Sept. 28. 

The two sides met at dusk on a road marked with rocket craters and a blown-up overpass about 30 kilometers north of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, where they swapped 30 prisoners each, according to Oksana Bylozir, a Ukrainian official in charge of arranging the exchanges. However, RIA Novosti, citing separatists sources, said that the Ukrainians handed over 60 prisoners.

Stepping out of a yellow bullet-riddled bus, a Ukrainian solder who gave only his first name, Alexey, said he had been captured by Russian soldiers in Ilovaisk, the site of a massacre that resulted in the murders of more than 100 of his comrades southeast of Donetsk on Aug. 24.

"Of course I remember when I was [taken]," he told reporters. "It was Independence Day, and we were captured by Russian soldiers. There were so many of them. So many."

Alexey said they had been encircled by Russian regular forces, who brought with them heavy armor, including several tanks.

Ukrainian prisoners of war stand ready to be exchanged for separatist fighters near Donetsk on Sept. 28. (Christopher J. Miller)

The two sides took turns swapping 10 prisoners for 10 prisoners until all 30 were safely inside each's buses. Several gunmen stood guard on both sides, their fingers resting near the triggers of their automatic rifles, all of which appeared to have their safeties switched off.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observed the prisoner exchange, which followed a preliminary peace deal during a meeting between Ukrainian and separatist representatives in Minsk on Sept. 5, and a second meeting on Sept. 19. The parties agreed during the second gathering on a cease-fire and the exchange of all prisoners. 

The sides also agreed to pull back armor and heavy artillery 15 kilometers in order to create a 30 kilometer buffer zone, and to open humanitarian corridors.

Despite the deal to release all prisoners, problems with their exchange have risen, due to teh vague language used in the Minsk protocol, Bylozir said. 

"We agreed to swap all for all, but there is no language about how exactly we do that," she said. "The mechanism was never worked out."

One thing that has become clear since the Minsk deal is that the separatists hold significantly more prisoners than the Ukrainian side, complicating matters more.

A separatist fighter captured by Ukrainian forces and then traded in a prisoner exchange waves as his bus pulls away near Donetsk on Sept. 28. (Christopher J. Miller)

At the exchange was a mother, Irina, who said her sone Vladimir was still being held by separatists somewhere in Donetsk. She has spoken with him by phone since he was captured while fighting in the region more than a month ago, she said. During the exchange on Sept. 28, she pleaded to separatist representatives to release him, and "on behalf of all the mothers of captured soldiers, please release them all."

As the buses pulled away, Irina walked back to her car, accompanied by a Ukrainian soldier, to spend another night away from her son.

"It will be another night of crying," she told the Kyiv Post. "But I believe he will be released. We will celebrate when he comes home."

At the exchange was a mother, Irina, who said her sone Vladimir was still being held by separatists somewhere in Donetsk. She has spoken with him by phone since he was captured while fighting in the region more than a month ago, she said. During the exchange on Sept. 28, she pleaded to separatist representatives to release him, and "on behalf of all the mothers of captured soldiers, please release them all."

As the buses pulled away, Irina walked back to her car, accompanied by a Ukrainian soldier, to spend another night away from her son.

"It will be another night of crying," she told the Kyiv Post. "But I believe he will be released. We will celebrate when he comes home."

Editor’s Note: This article has been produced for Kyivpost with support from www.mymedia.org.ua, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action, as well as Ukraine Media Project, managed by Internews and funded by the United States Agency for International Development

 

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