The Ukrainian government and separatists reportedly backed by Russia have carried out the largest prisoners swap to date, since violence erupted in the region in 2014.
Ukraine handed over 246 prisoners that it had in its custody in exchange for 74 prisoners who were being held by separatist forces. The prisoner swap is the largest to date, since the signing of the 2015 Minsk peace agreement.
Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said the swap "is an important step in the implementation of the Minsk agreements” and called for further steps to be taken.
Both sides hailed the swap, with the head of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, saying "people who have spent more than three years in captivity will be able to return home thanks to the church and the authorities”.
“It was a very exhausting and professional struggle for everyone,” said Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. “I believe it will bring the result tomorrow.”
More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict so far.