Gerashchenko: Ukraine to insist on release of all hostages
The Ukrainian side at the talks of the Minsk Tripartite Contact Group for the Donbas settlement will make every effort for the speedy release of all Ukrainian hostages, according to First Deputy Chair of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s representative in the TCG’s humanitarian subgroup Iryna Gerashchenko.
She stressed that the priority efforts of the humanitarian subgroup in 2018 will be aimed at "the release of all unlawfully detained persons from prisons in the occupied territories and the intensification of work on the search and identification of missing persons".
The subgroup’s work involves leader of the public movement "Ukrainian Choice - People's Right" Viktor Medvedchuk, the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Valeriya Lutkovska and representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine. "We will make every effort to see the second wave of hostage release as soon as possible; we are ready for serious compromises in this matter. We hope that the positive vibe of the first wave of liberation, important for all participants of the Minsk groups and the Normandy format, will facilitate and accelerate the second one. By the way, we are grateful to everyone who really worked on the release, including all the participants of the Minsk Group from the Ukrainian side," Gerashchenko noted.
According to her, Ukraine’s representatives will continue to insist on a joint search for the missing in Donbas and the exhumation of bodies.
Read alsoU.S. calls for "all-for-all" detainee swap in Donbas"We will also insist on creating a mechanism involving Ukraine, the Russian Federation, and the ICRC, inviting representatives of the occupied areas, to search for missing persons and exhumation of bodies. This should be an apolitical group of experts to carry out an important humanitarian mission beyond politics," she said.
Gerashchenko expressed her conviction that the topic of involving the ICRC in search of the missing in Donbas should become one of the topics within the framework of the discussion of the Normandy format, since the support of Normandy Four leaders seriously contributed to the unblocking of the process of hostage release.
"In addition, Gerashchenko noted the active role of the International Committee of the Red Cross in facilitating the release of those legally held in Ukrainian prisons and those illegally held in the occupied Donbas. The representative of Ukraine reported that, in addition to visits to prisons, personal communication and support for the transfer of hostages, the ICRC facilitated other important technical and logistical issues.
"Representatives of the OSCE SMM were also present during the liberation operation, which is also very important, and we are also looking forward to their more active position within the framework of their mandate regarding visits to prisons, the release of hostages, and ensuring compliance with the Minsk agreements."
“In the occupied Horlivka the representative of the OSCE SMM approached me and asked how many citizens, in turn, were moved to the ‘LPR-DPR’. I called the Ukrainian media outlets and in their presence publicly drew the attention of this observer that she should adhere to the terminology set by the Minsk Agreements, where the area is called ‘certain areas of Donetsk and Lunahsk regions’, and there is no such thing as ‘DPP-LPR’. She flushed and apologized, but this is not a question of vocabulary, it’s a question of the attitude of observers to these territories, and it must comply with the Minsk agreements, according to which Horlivka, Donetsk, and Luhansk are part of Ukraine!" stressed Gerashchenko.
Read alsoBig swapAccording to Ukraine’s representative, also at the first meeting of the TCG participants in Minsk she will raise the issue of the release of seven teenagers who were detained in September 2016 for allegedly "sabotage" and who are still kept in custody in the Donetsk detention center.
"In my deep conviction, within the framework of the Minsk Group, all parties, including the OSCE coordinators, should actively demand their release," she added. "The most important issue for the Ukrainian government is the issue of the release of political prisoners of the Kremlin. President Poroshenko, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we are doing everything possible to this end."
Read alsoNext prisoner swap: Ukraine may exchange 74 for 29 hostages, 103 still captive in DonbasAs UNIAN reported earlier, the exchange of hostages took place on December 27, 2017. Ukraine gave out 233 convicts who had been detained in connection with the war in Donbas and were serving their sentences in Ukrainian prisons.
Vasyl Hrytsak, Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, reported that after the exchange in the temporarily occupied Donbas, Russian-controlled militants are still holding hostage 103 Ukrainians, while 402 persons are declared missing.
Viktor Medvedchuk stated that the following exchange of hostages can be carried out according to the "74 for 29" formula.