Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov hugs his daughter upon his arrival at Boryspil airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. Planes carrying prisoners freed by Russia and Ukraine have landed in the countries' capitals, in an exchange that could be a significant step toward improving relations between Moscow and Kyiv. The planes, each reportedly carrying 35 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously at Vnukovo airport in Moscow and at Kyiv's Boryspil airport. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukraine, Russia exchange prisoners in move to improve ties

September 07, 2019 - 7:11 am

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia and Ukraine on Saturday exchanged 35 prisoners each to the other country, a move that could be a significant step toward easing Russia-Ukraine relations and raise chances for resolving the conflict in Ukraine's east.

At Boryspil airport in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the prisoners were greeted by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as they stepped down the stairway from an airplane that had brought them from Moscow. Relatives waiting on the tarmac surged forward to hug them.

Most of the prisoners appeared to be in good physical condition, although one struggled down the steps on crutches and another was held by the arms as he slowly navigated the steps.

At Moscow's Vnukovo airport, the released prisoners stayed aboard the plane for about 15 minutes for unexplained reasons, then debarked with many toting baggage.

The released prisoners aboard the Russian plane included Kirill Vyshinsky, head of the Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti's Ukraine branch, who had been jailed since 2018 on treason charges.

The prisoners from the Russian side included 24 Ukrainian sailors who were seized by Russia in November and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, convicted of plotting terrorist acts.

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