Russia, Ukraine appear to be gearing up for prisoner swap

MOSCOW (AP) — Officials in Russia and Ukraine indicated Monday they are gearing up for a prisoner swap.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Russian news agencies Monday the two countries are discussing a swap involving the 24 Ukrainians captured in the Sea of Azov last December. Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office said it’s likely Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinskiy, who is in detention in Ukraine, will be released.

The Russian envoy for human rights, Svetlana Moskalkova, arrived in Ukraine on Monday on a rare visit and held talks about the captured prisoners with her Ukrainian counterpart.

The Ukrainian government has been fighting with Russia-backed separatists in the country’s east since 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Dozens of Ukrainians including a film director have been put on trial and convicted in what have been perceived as political motivated cases. Dozens of Russian citizens and separatist supporters are in Ukrainian custody, facing charges of treason and inciting separatism.

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The flurry of activity around the imprisoned Russians and Ukrainians follows last week’s first telephone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Former comedian Zelenskiy, who was elected in May, has named the release of Ukrainians kept in Russian custody one of his most urgent priorities.

Moskalkova on Monday attended a court hearing in Kiev that was supposed to rule on Vyshinskiy’s detention pending trial, just hours after a court in Moscow set a hearing for Wednesday on extending detention for the 24 Ukrainian sailors captured off Crimea last December. The judge at the Kiev court adjourned the hearing until Thursday.

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