KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – The office of the Ukrainian president on Friday denied reports saying that a much-anticipated prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia is underway.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said in a statement that negotiations with Russia to secure the release of the Ukrainian prisoners are ongoing but insisted that it has not happened yet. The Kremlin on Thursday refused to comment on the possible prisoner exchange.
Rumors about the impending prisoner swap have swirled after a Ukrainian court released a jailed Russian journalist on parole earlier this week, and several high-profile Ukrainian prisoners were transferred from far-flung prison colonies to Moscow.
Zelenskiy, who was elected in April, made getting Ukrainian prisoners home his top campaign pledge. Ukraine has urged Russia to release 24 Ukrainian sailors captured off Crimea in November, along with other prisoners, while Russia has demanded the release of some other prisoners in Ukrainian custody.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia tanked in 2014 after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and threw its weight behind separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.