Updated 8:15 p.m. Moscow Time
DONETSK, September 14 (RIA Novosti) - The much-anticipated prisoner swap between Ukrainian security forces and militia in the breakaway republic of Donetsk is underway 30 kilometers to the north of the region’s capital city Donetsk, a RIA Novosti correspondent reports.
The swap follows a groundbreaking ceasefire agreement in Belarus' capital Minsk on September 5 where Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agreed to exchange all captives held by Kiev and militias in the breakaway eastern regions, in what they described as an “all-for-all” prisoner exchange.
Negotiators were building on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposals.
Earlier in the day, Kiev confirmed that the parties were to exchange a total of 146 captives on Sunday, following a similar swap on Friday when self-defense forces in the Donetsk People’s Republic handed over 36 Ukrainian personnel that had been apprehended in their territory during Kiev’s military operation in eastern Ukraine. In its turn, the Ukrainian government freed 31 hostages.
On Friday, the Donetsk republic’s Deputy Prime Minister, Andrei Purgin, said a total of 1,500 people could eventually be swapped.
Ukraine has been engulfed in violent internal conflict since mid-April, when Kiev began its military operation against independence supporters in the southeastern regions of the country. According to United Nations' estimates, some 3,000 people have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded since the start of the offensive.