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Emotional scenes as Ukraine president welcomes home freed prisoners

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Emotional scenes as Ukraine president welcomes home freed prisoners
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There were emotional scenes as freed Ukrainian prisoners were welcomed home at an airport in Kyiv on Saturday (September 7).

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was on hand to greet them on the tarmac after a prisoner swap with Russia.

He said the exchange was the first step in ending "this horrible conflict" with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Mark Feygin, a former Russian politician, tweeted that 34 prisoners were involved including 24 sailors, captured in the Kerch Strait last November, and Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was arrested on terrorism charges — which he denies — in 2015.

Nikolai Polozov, a lawyer for the sailors' defence team wrote on Facebook Saturday morning that "the process has begun".

Pavel Chikov, a lawyer with Agora International Human Rights Group, said that Sentsov was a part of the exchange in a post on Facebook.

"It is with relief and a profound joy that I learnt today of the release of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. He resisted injustice with dignity and stood up for democracy and human rights. I look forward to being able to hand him Parliament's #SakharovPrize in person soon," European Parliament president David Sassoli tweeted.

Sentsov is a native of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Russian news agencies reported last month that Sentsov had been transferred from a remote Arctic prison to the Russian capital.

Among the prisoners released to Russia was the director of the Ukrainian branch of a Russian state news agency, Kirill Vyshinsky, who was arrested in 2018.

Volodymyr Tsemakh, a suspect in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 that occurred in 2014, was also released.

The Dutch government had urged Ukraine not to release Tsemakh to Russia so he would be available to the criminal investigation into the plane crash.

MH17 took off from Amsterdam and most of the victims were Dutch.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in late August that talks would be finalised over the anticipated prisoner swap.

Reuters
Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who was jailed on terrorism charges in Russia, gets off a plane upon arrival in KyivReuters
Reuters
A recently exchanged Ukrainian prisoner embraces his relative upon arrival in Kyiv after Russia-Ukraine prisoner swapReuters
REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Vyacheslav Zinchenko is greeted by his relatives upon arrival in Kiev after Russia-Ukraine prisoner swapREUTERS/Gleb Garanich
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