UKRAINE CONFLICT: Kiev and pro-Russian separatists exchange POWs

DECEMBER 27, 2014

Ukrainian authorities and separatists exchanged hundreds of prisoners of war on Friday, a spokesperson for President Petro Poroshenko said, part of a 12-point plan aimed at ending the pro-Russian uprising in the east of the country.

The agreement to swap 150 Ukrainian servicemen for 222 rebels followed peace talks between envoys of Ukraine, Russia, the separatists and European security watchdog Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Wednesday.

"The head of the SBU (security service) reported the release of 146 Ukrainians to the President. The SBU expects another four prisoners to be released on Saturday. They will all be able to celebrate New Year with their families," spokesperson Svyatoslav Tsegolko said in a Facebook post.

Earlier, an SBU aide had said they would hand over 225 rebels for the Ukrainian servicemen.

The uprising by separatists, whih th West blames on Russia, began a month after Moscow annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in March, following the popular overthrow of Ukraine's Moscow-backed president.

The conflict has killed more than 4 700 people.

Photo caption: Captured Ukraine soldiers being paraded by pro-Russian separatists in August.