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Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists swap prisoners, reports say

Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists have begun a prisoner exchange in eastern Ukraine, according to reports Wednesday...

Posted: Dec 27, 2017 9:16 PM
Updated: Dec 27, 2017 9:16 PM

Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists have begun a prisoner exchange in eastern Ukraine, according to reports Wednesday from multiple Russian news outlets.

The negotiated swap is the first in 14 months and is seen as a key part of implementing the Minsk agreements, a framework for peace intended to bring about a ceasefire between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Russian state media reported Monday that Ukraine had agreed to release 306 prisoners in exchange for 74 being held by separatists.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with relatives of the hostages on Tuesday night, according to a statement from his office. "Nothing is more important than to return our people home," he said.

Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been mired in conflict since separatists declared their independence from Kiev in spring 2014, shortly after Russia's controversial annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

The Minsk agreements, which have never been fully implemented, were brokered in early 2015 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in talks between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.

The peace protocol called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine, as well as the release and exchange of all hostages and illegally held prisoners, dialogue on new local elections and the securing of Ukraine's eastern border with Russia.

Martin Sajdik, of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, welcomed the exchange, saying it had long been awaited by the prisoners and their families.

"This is a deeply humanitarian gesture, even more so on the occasion of Christmas and New Year," he said in a statement on Tuesday, before the exchange began. "I call upon the sides to provide conditions of dignity and respect for each of the persons to be exchanged."

OSCE observers have been monitoring the situation in Ukraine since 2014. The organization on Friday hailed what it said was a renewed commitment to the ceasefire plan, which followed a recent increase in clashes between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists.

"If underpinned by withdrawal of weapons and disengagement and made in good faith, this recommitment to the ceasefire holds the promise of a more peaceful new year for the people of eastern Ukraine," said Ertugrul Apakan, who heads the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine.

On Saturday, the US State Department said it would provide lethal anti-tank weapons to Ukraine to help its forces fight Russian-backed separatists. The Trump administration had already announced it would permit sales of some small arms to Ukraine from US manufacturers.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the US decision to supply Ukraine with anti-tank weapons meant the United States "is clearly pushing [Ukraine] to new bloodshed."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
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George248048
Newton246861
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Jasper221148
Attala214473
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Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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