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“Largest Prisoner Swap Since Ukrainian Conflict Erupts: Ukraine & Russia Exchange Prisoners”

Far from the physical and political isolationism that has built up between these two nations in the wake of the Russian military intervention into Ukrainian affairs, a major prisoner exchange was conducted in December, 2019. It was considered the largest such process since the conflict began in 2014. This marks a momentous occasion, an example of faith in humanitarianism, with the assurance that individuals on both sides of the long-running political struggle will be returned safely to their respective homes.

As part of the agreement, a group of 35 Ukrainian prisoners and nine Russian ones were swapped on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the frontlines near the strategic industrial town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region. This exchange came after the two sides had met late in the year to discuss the potential for further implementation of the Minsk Peace Agreement, with the prisoners a subject of major importance.

For years, both sides had made separate claims that citizens of the other were in their possession and were being unlawfully held in prison for horrendous reasons, including alleged acts of terror. Despite the efforts of both sides to bring an end to the conflict, the decision to find solace in common humanity and move beyond the bounds of war in the prisoner exchange was likely to cause a reduction in intensity of the struggle to return to a peaceful situation.

The event was socially acknowledged by representatives of both countries, although the daunting task of reconciliation remains far from being fulfilled. On the day of the prisoner exchange, the Ukrainian side was led by their president, Volodymyr Zelensky. He expressed his desire to have the two sides work together to come to a lasting resolution to the conflict.

“We understand that there are unsolved political issues between Ukraine and Russia … we need to be friends in the future,” he said.

While talks of smooth and lasting peace may remain an elusive dream, the prisoner exchange is seen as a step forward for both countries, and a testament that is praised by the international community. In reality, it remains to be seen how much this exchange will help in the long run, but it does offer a glimmer of hope for the people who have suffered through years of militarized confrontations.

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