Poroshenko says 1,200 Ukrainian captives freed by rebels

Poroshenko says 1,200 Ukrainian captives freed by rebels
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Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, on a trip to the troubled east of the country, has said 1,200 prisoners held by separatist rebels have been handed over under the terms of a ceasefire agreement.

The two sides are meant to exchange all their prisoners of war in line with the accord struck on Friday.

The Ukrainian leader was visiting a steel plant in Mariupol, the port which was threatened by rebels before the ceasefire took effect.

He vowed to defend the city of half a million people with multiple rocket-launchers, tanks and air cover.

But he also stressed dialogue was important.

“Everyone both in Mariupol and all over the country are waiting for the same thing – yes, we are ready to fight, we have enough forces to protect the city and the country but everyone wants peace. And that“s why I have taken the decision and launched talks with Russian President Putin,” he said.

Poroshenko received a warm welcome in Mariupol, whose port is vital for Ukraine’s steel exports.

Opinion is said to have swung more in favour of the government since separatists were driven out.

The ceasefire was largely holding on Monday, despite being described as “shaky” by international monitors.

The weekend saw the most serious violation. A woman was killed and four people injured as government forces in Mariupol came under artillery attack.