FAMILIES REUNITE IN LANDMARK RUSSIA-UKRAINE PRISONER SWAP
and Ukraine carried out a long-awaited swap of 70 prisoners on Saturday, in a deal hailed by President Volodymyr Zelensky as a ‘first step’ towards ending their conflict. Planes carrying 35 prisoners from each side landed simultaneously in Moscow and Kiev, where the passengers emerged under sunny skies. ‘We have taken the first step,’ Zelensky said on the tarmac after greeting and hugging former prisoners, adding, ‘We have to take all the steps to finish this horrible war.’ In emotional scenes at Kiev’s Boryspil airport, family members embraced and handed flowers to the former prisoners, many weeping with joy. Among those swapped were 24 Ukrainian sailors, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, and Russian-Ukrainian journalist Kyrylo Vyshynsky. Relations between Kiev and Moscow nosedived in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and Moscow backed separatists in the eastern industrial regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Fighting there has claimed more than 13,000 lives over the past five years. Zelensky's election in April has raised hopes that a stalled peace process could be revived.