During Vladimir Putin's visit to the Voskresensky New Jerusalem Monastery, Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Choice – People’s Right movement, sought the Russian President’s support for his proposed prisoner exchange between Ukraine and the Donetsk and Lugansk republics.
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Leader of the Ukrainian Choice – People’s Right movement Viktor Medvedchuk: Mr President, may I make a request that concerns hundreds of people behind bars on both sides of the contact line?
It so happens that today marks 14 months since the last such exchange. As you are aware, I have been dealing with exchanges since 2014, and the reason for this situation is that, according to the Minsk agreements, exchanges are to be made according to the ”all for all“ formula.
Ukraine currently faces difficulties in implementing this principle. Objectively, under current law, Ukraine cannot adhere to this principle with regard to all persons, primarily, with regard to those who are charged with particularly serious crimes.
However, despite this, a large number of people are ready to be exchanged. Ukraine is prepared to release 306 people, and expects Donetsk and Lugansk to release 74 people. This could be done before the New Year and Christmas holidays.
That is why I am asking you to use your authority and to show compassion by asking the heads of the unrecognised republics – Mr Zakharchenko and Mr Plotnitsky – to go ahead with this exchange as the first stage of an ”all for all“ exchange and to release these individuals.
As a result, as many as 380 people could return home to their families and friends. I think it would be a very important step towards fulfilling the Minsk agreements and finalising peace in Donbass. If I may, I have the following request.
I believe I have the support of the Russian Orthodox Church represented by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill – who is constantly working on this issue – and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church represented by Metropolitan Onufriy.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia: Mr President, I do support this.
We discussed all these issues and I know that you have very strong feelings about these people’s fate. Blessed Metropolitan Onufriy repeatedly appealed to me with requests and, as you know, some of them were fulfilled and some were not.
The church’s role in such conflicts is, of course, primarily humanitarian. People are suffering. They are victims of this terrible conflict, which has caused the suffering of so many.
For my part, I also ask you to support this idea and to work together to see this excellent effort through.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I will do all I can and speak with the leadership of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics.
I hope what you are proposing will be done as soon as possible.