Ukraine: Plane with Russian prisoners takes off

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MOSCOW (AP) – A plane carrying Russian prisoners freed by Ukraine has taken off for Moscow as part of a prisoner exchange by the two countries, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s security service said Saturday.

The exchange could be a significant step toward easing Russia-Ukraine relations and raising chances for resolving the conflict in Ukraine’s east where fighting between troops and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014.

Yelena Gitlanskaya, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s SBU security service, told reporters at Kyiv’s Boryspil airport that “the Russians have left,” according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Russian news agencies also reported that a Ukrainian plane carrying released prisoners has taken off from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport.

It wasn’t clear who specifically was on board the Russian plane, aside from Kirill Vyshinsky, head of the Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti’s Ukraine branch, who had been jailed since 2018 on treason charges. His presence was confirmed by Dmitry Kiselev, head of the Rossiya Segodnya media group that includes the agency.

Russian attorney Mark Feigin tweeted that prisoners from the Russian side include 24 Ukrainian sailors who were seized by Russia in November, along with Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko who he has represented and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, convicted of plotting terrorist acts.

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