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Trump congratulates Russia, Ukraine for exchanging prisoners

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US President Donald Trump on Saturday congratulated Russia and Ukraine for swapping a "large number of prisoners."

"Russia and Ukraine just swapped large numbers of prisoners. Very good news, perhaps a first giant step to peace. Congratulations to both countries!" Trump tweeted.

Trump's reaction comes after the planes carrying the freed prisoners landed at Moscow's Vnukovo and Kiev's Boryspil airports respectively.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also praised the prisoner swap as a "sign of hope".

"This exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine is a sign of hope ... It's worth continuing the hard work to implement the Minsk accord," Merkel said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the exchange of prisoners and termed it as a first step to ending the war in Ukraine's east and returning territory annexed by Moscow, reported Al Jazeera.

"We have taken the first step," he said after greeting the freed prisoners at the airport in Ukraine's capital, Kiev.

"We have to take all the steps to finish this horrible war," the President said.

The exchange took place after lengthy negotiations. Those released include 24 Ukrainian sailors who were detained by Russia in November last year in the Sea of Azov, as well as Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was convicted of plotting "terrorist" acts.

The key suspect involved in the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17, Vladimir Tsemakh, was also swapped in the exchange.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the prisoner exchange would be "a good step forward towards the normalisation [of relations]".

Russia and Ukraine have been in a conflict since 2014 when the former annexed Crimea. Ukraine blames the Kremlin for separatist violence in east Ukraine.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, September 07 2019. 21:05 IST
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