The process of the exchange of POWs stalled because of the unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to participate in the coordination of lists since plenipotentiary representatives of Kiev in the humanitarian subgroup often ignore the meetings. This was reported by the press service of the DPR Human Rights Ombudsman Office Daria Morozova. They also stressed that now Donetsk demands the return of 277 citizens. Kiev, however, confirms only 82 prisoners. The Verkhovna Rada representatives explained to Izvestia that Kiev is delaying the implementation of the prisoner exchange because it is rather disadvantageous for the Ukrainian authorities from the political perspective to force events at the moment.
The total number of prisoners requested by Donetsk as of July 6 decreased from 288 to 277 people. The press service of the DPR Ombudsman Office explained that this is due to the lack of information about these individuals.
“These people are now considered missing. Nevertheless, we demand that Kiev return the other 277 people. Ukraine confirms only 82 prisoners and refuses to confirm 195 individuals. The exchange process, unfortunately, is in the deadlock because of the position of Kiev authorities. Authorized representatives of Ukraine often ignore the meetings of the humanitarian subgroup. At the meetings, the Ukrainian side is only represented by experts who are not authorized to make decisions,” the press service of the Ombudsman told.
The staff of the Ombudsman Office added that the DPR constantly sends requests to Kiev about the documents of wanted persons, which are usually ignored and remain unanswered for half a year. In addition, Ukraine refuses to sign the declaration on the non-use of torture introduced by the OSCE Coordinator of the humanitarian subgroup Tony Frisch. The document condemns all forms of torture, cruel treatment, sexual violence and threats of violence against persons in captivity in connection with the conflict in Donbass. The DPR expressed its readiness to sign the declaration.
“We repeatedly raised all these issues during the meetings with representatives of the UN and other international organizations. We try to focus on this. The next meeting of the humanitarian subgroup in Minsk is scheduled for July 25,” said the press-service of the Ombudsman Office. In an interview to Izvestia, a representative of Ukraine in the humanitarian subgroup explained: plenipotentiaries of Kiev do not attend the meetings because the leadership of the country has not made a final decision on when it is the right time to perform the exchange and whether it is necessary to perform it now from the political perspective.
“The exchange of prisoners is one of the steps to resolve the conflict, as well as amnesty, the special status of Donbass, and so on. But the leadership of the country does not want to force things. They want to do this before the election campaign in autumn, they want to show that they managed to do that, they managed to perform the exchange,” the Verkhovna Rada deputy from the opposition bloc Eugene Balitsky told Izvestia.
One of the key points in the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine may be the exchange of prisoners. In February 2015, representatives of Kiev, the LPR and the DPR signed the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreement. The fifth paragraph of this document, in particular, provides for “pardon and amnesty by enacting a law prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events that took place in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.” And the next paragraph refers to the obligation to conduct the exchange of prisoners based on the “all for all” formula. In December 2017, the largest exchange took place. However, Kiev released only 237 people out of 306, contrary to what had been agreed before. As explained by the Ukrainian authorities, some of these people allegedly fell under categories that cannot be exchanged.