The prisoner exchange between Kyiv and the occupied territories of Donbas will not be held by New Year’s Eve, Russian media outlets report with reference to sources close to the negotiation process on Russia’s side.
The corresponding information was confirmed by a representative of the Luhansk occupation authorities. Olga Kobtseva, head of the working group on exchange from the so-called “LPR,” stated, “There is no possibility of exchange by New Year’s Eve until Ukraine fulfills its obligations.” Withdrawal of “legal claims” against persons released by Ukraine is meant by the obligations.
At the same time, Russia blamed Kyiv for “slowing down” the preparations for a new exchange. Following the video conference meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on 25 November, Boris Gryzlov, head of the Russian delegation to the TCG on peaceful settlement of the situation in Donbas, also stated that Ukraine had not fulfilled its obligations to end the prosecution of already released people. “Preliminary exchange procedures cannot be considered complete,” he added.
On 20 November, it became known that Ukraine had prepared and handed over to the occupiers a list of 11 people for mutual exchange by the end of the year. According to Leonid Kravchuk, head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group, it is first necessary to exchange people, who were already included in the lists.
Political scientist Kyrylo Sazonov assumed that Russia and Russian-backed authorities in the occupied Donbas would not agree to exchange detainees. The Normandy format meeting is unlikely to take place in the near future as well.
“Russia has repeatedly stated – both Putin and the Kremlin made corresponding statements- that meetings should be held when there are some results and there is something to discuss. So far, we see that Russia puts forward its demands, they are totally unacceptable to Ukraine, so it makes no sense to hold a meeting,” the expert said.
He believes that Russia “will block the meeting, refuse to meet” as Ukraine may draw the attention of Germany and France to a number of issues during the meeting, show Russia’s inability to negotiate, and demand that sanctions against Russia should be strengthened. According to Sazonov, the Kremlin understands this very well, so a meeting and prisoner exchange are unlikely to be held. Russia does not need people; Russia is ready to “release our hostages only in exchange for political concessions.”