Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners

2022-03-23 08:01:32China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed an offer of direct peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin late Monday, and Moscow has announced the first prisoner exchange between the two countries.

In an interview with Ukrainian media outlet Suspilne late on Monday, Zelensky said he was ready to meet with Putin "in any format" to discuss ending the almost monthlong "special military operation" that has shattered several Ukrainian cities.

Zelensky said even the status of Crimea and Russian-backed statelets in Donbas was up for discussion. It was the first time he said the status of disputed territories could be up for discussion and a possible referendum.

"At the first meeting with the president of Russia, I am ready to raise these issues," he said.

Although Zelensky signaled that he is willing to talk about the status of the three areas, he has repeatedly insisted all three are part of Ukraine and that his country would not surrender.

Satellite images taken on Monday showed Russian artillery positions west of Russian-held Antonov Air Base, northwest of Kyiv. Those positions resemble other Russian artillery positions, with earthen berms been built around them.

Damage from Russian military strikes was also visible in images of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv. Two distinct fires could be seen in central Irpin near a city government complex and other buildings.

Russia has not responded to Zelensky's meeting offer, but announced the first prisoner exchange between the two neighboring countries, Russian state media TASS reported on Tuesday.

"The first exchange happened. We returned nine of our boys," Human Rights Commissioner in Russia Tatyana Moskalkova said in an interview with RT, Russia's English-language TV news network. She confirmed that Russian servicemen were exchanged for the mayor of the Ukrainian city Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov. The Office of the President of Ukraine also confirmed the exchange.

Russia announced that Moscow is ending peace treaty talks with Tokyo in light of new unilateral restrictions against Russia that Japan adopted in response to the Ukraine situation. Russia cited the "impossibility" of continuing discussions "with a country that has taken an openly hostile position and is striving to cause harm to the interest of our country".

Japan and its Group of Seven allies have been united in imposing tough sanctions on Russian financial institutions and leaders.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was ending a visa-free policy for Japanese people to visit the disputed Kuril Islands-which Tokyo calls the Northern Territories-and was pulling out of talks on joint economic activity there.


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