A recently exchanged Ukrainian prisoner embraces his relative upon arrival in Kyiv after Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap 070919 CREDIT PA .jpg
Russia

Ukraine And Russia Exchange Prisoners In Bid To Improve Relations

A total of 24 Ukrainian sailors, who were detained by the Russian navy last year, were among those returned by Russia.

A recently exchanged Ukrainian prisoner embraces his relative upon arrival in Kyiv after Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap 070919 CREDIT PA .jpg

A Ukrainian prisoner is embraced as he arrives in Kiev after a prisoner swap with Russia (Picture: PA).

Russia and Ukraine have completed a prisoner swap in a move considered a significant step towards the improvement of relations between the two nations. 

The exchange involved some of the highest-profile prisoners caught up in the stand-off between Ukraine and Russia.

Two planes, each carrying 35 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously at airports in both Kiev and Moscow. 

A total of 24 Ukrainian sailors, who were detained after the Russian navy seized a ship off the Crimean Peninsula last year, were among those returned by Russia.

Mariupol Commercial Sea Port by Sea of Azov
The Ukrainian sailors were taken in the Sea of Azov (Picture: PA).

The prisoners released by Ukraine included Volodymyr Tsemakh, a "person of interest" in the Dutch-led investigation into the shooting down of Malaysian Airline flight MH17.

Mr Tsemakh reportedly commanded a separatist rebel air defence unit in the area where the aircraft was shot down in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

Dozens of Ukrainian politicians had urged President Volodymyr Zelenskiy against trading Mr Tsemakh, who Dutch investigators still want to question.

Mr Zelenskiy greeted the freed prisoners as they stepped down from the plane in Kiev, as relatives waited on the tarmac before being reunited (Picture: PA).

Mr Zelenskiy said: "We have to do all the steps to finish this horrible war."

The exchange comes amid renewed hope that a solution can be found to the fighting in Ukraine's east that has killed 13,000 people since 2014.