Swiss role in eastern Ukraine prisoner swap

The prisoner swap comes three months after a similar exchange between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels in the east. Keystone

Switzerland has welcomed a prisoner exchange this week between Kiev and non-government controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, saying Swiss diplomats working for the OSCE were instrumental in the deal.

This content was published on April 18, 2020 - 15:21

On 16 April 2020, around 40 prisoners were exchanged between the government-controlled and non-government controlled areas of Ukraine, according to a Swiss foreign ministry press releaseExternal link. This came three months after the last such large-scale exchange, it said.

The planned prisoner swap went ahead despite a state of emergency in Ukraine to combat coronavirus, “with participants agreeing on the necessary precautions and protective measures in advance”.

This came after intensive negotiations within the Trilateral Contact group, a forum between the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Russia and Ukraine.

According to the Swiss foreign ministry, the negotiations have been led since January by Heidi GrauExternal link of Switzerland, who is Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in­-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group. The contact group’s humanitarian sub-group is led by its Swiss coordinator, Toni Frisch.

The armed conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels in the east has been ongoing for six years and has claimed over 13,000 lives, according to the UN. Switzerland is “committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict and promotes de-escalation and dialogue, mainly within the framework of the OSCE”, says the foreign ministry.  

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