Russia, officials from occupied Donbas refuse to conduct video conference on prisoner swap
The Ukrainian side in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) has not received an answer from representatives of Russia and officials in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions to the proposal to conduct a video conference call for TCG members on December 27, 2018, to discuss new initiatives by Kyiv to release hostages and political prisoners.
First Deputy Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament and Ukraine's envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group's humanitarian subgroup Iryna Gerashchenko said on Facebook: "We have not received any response from Russia or representatives of occupied Donetsk region. Representatives of occupied Luhansk region sent a letter refusing to take part in the Skype conference and called the initiative by Kyiv to negotiate a release of hostages a 'PR exercise.'"
Gerashchenko said on Facebook the Ukrainian side is waiting for more active and constructive positions from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Coordinator of the Humanitarian Working Group, Ambassador Toni Frisch. "He recommended holding the conference on December 29, and not on December 27 (We are ready to hold it on December 29, of course, but we expect more involvement and more initiative to be shown for solving humanitarian issues)," she said.
Gerashchenko said the Ukrainian side of the TCG earlier recommended holding on December 27 a video conference of the humanitarian group in order to attempt to close positions on the issue of releasing hostages. Representatives of Ukraine then made concrete proposals, replete with lists, and recommended carrying out a "large-scale prisoner swap in the form of 22 for 22, 39 for 11 and 33 for 8 on January 5, on the eve of Orthodox Christmas."
"Nevertheless, the Ukrainian side demands the release of hostages and political prisoners. I have appealed to Ukraine's head of the TCG Yevhen Marchuk so that on December 27 during the Skype conference of the TCG security subgroup he can raise the issue about the need of conducing a Skype conference of the humanitarian subgroup to discuss one issue – the release of hostages. We are ready to talk about various formats, to discuss each name, to do everything to reach an agreement and free those held in captivity. It would be very proper and humane to release everyone by Orthodox Christmas on January 7, 2019," she said.
As earlier reported, on December 21, the Ukrainian side of the TCG sent to the OSCE its written proposals for holding a video conference of the TCG humanitarian subgroup on December 27 in order to discuss Kyiv's new proposals for releasing hostages and political prisoners.