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"The United States strongly encourages the sides to solidify their initial agreement to exchange detainees before the upcoming holidays," he said before the Permanent Council, Vienna, on December 14, 2017.

In his words, an exchange is long overdue and owed to the families of the nearly four hundred detainees involved.

Read alsoUkraine ready to swap 306 imprisoned militants for 74 Ukrainians captured in Donbas"We encourage the parties to build upon these initial steps, ensure this element of the Minsk agreements is fulfilled, and demonstrate that progress is possible," he said. "The sides were able to come to terms for a two-day local ceasefire on December 9 and December 10 to allow for long overdue repairs to the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge. While both measures are important, only a full and permanent ceasefire will ease the human suffering in eastern Ukraine, as this conflict enters its fourth winter. The Russian Federation has the ability to end the violence."

"Russia initiated and continues to fuel the war in eastern Ukraine," he added. "Russia must improve security and implement its commitments under the Minsk agreements, which include ensuring its proxies abide by the ceasefire and reduce tensions along the line of contact. The presence of Russia-led forces is endangering peace and stability."

Ukrainian member of the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group's humanitarian subgroup Iryna Gerashchenko said on December 8 that 168 Ukrainians were held captive by militants in Donbas.

Russian media earlier reported that the POW and hostages swap between Ukraine and the Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics in Donbas should take place before December 25.