President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko says that the leader of the Ukrainian Choice organization, Viktor Medvedchuk, at the Minsk talks on Donbas settlement is a de facto representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Let's say this, we all understand everything: de facto, Medvedchuk is Putin’s representative at these talks,” Poroshenko told a Kyiv press conference Sunday, adding that, at the same time, Medvedchuk was perhaps the only practical channel of communication with the Russian leader on the issue of prisoner exchange.

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The president added that, as far as he knows, Medvedchuk had not participated in the meetings of the Trilateral Group in Minsk since spring of this year.

Answering a question on whether he thinks Putin's personal unwillingness to communicate with him hinders negotiations on hostage release, Poroshenko said, “The fact that we have not been able to free any Ukrainian hostages and political prisoners for over a year... is not because whether the Russian president wants to communicate with Poroshenko or not, but because he just doesn't want to release them.”

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The President also recalled that after the act of aggression of the Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait, he tried to contact Putin.

“He refused to communicate not because, as he explains, it is connected with the electoral process in Ukraine [and he is not willing to boost Poroshenko's ratings]. He refused, because he has nothing to say,” Poroshenko noted.

As UNIAN reported earlier, December 27, 2017, was the last time a prisoner exchange took place in Donbas where Ukraine handed over to the Russian-backed militants 233 convicts who had been detained in connection with the war and been serving their sentences in Ukrainian prison in exchange for 73 Ukrainian hostages held by Donbas militants.

Among the released Ukrainian hostages, there were 32 military and 41 civilians.