İrem UZUN -TDO- Pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine have concluded a long-awaited prisoner exchange of 200 prisoners, the office of the Ukrainian president said. Ukraine's government received 76 captives, with the pro-Russian separatists reportedly taking 124. "Prisoner swap is completed. 76 persons are in safe in Ukraine-controlled territory," the Ukraine presidency announced on Twitter.
Russian and Ukrainian authorities agreed to the swap - which is aimed at improving ties - at talks in December. Relations between the two countries deteriorated in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Russian-backed rebels then began an insurgency in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Sunday's swap took place at a check point near the industrial town of Horlivka in the Donetsk region. "The mutual release of the detainees has ended," the official Twitter account of the Ukrainian president said.
On December 9, the leaders of the Normandy Four countries -Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine- met in Paris and the parties to the conflict agreed to a full exchange of prisoners of war before the end of December. In a joint statement, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed a prisoner swap.