Ukraine has begun exchanging hundreds of prisoners with pro-Russian rebels as part of a 12-point peace plan.The swap – 125 Ukrainian servicemen for 225 separatists – was agreed during talks attended by the two sides, Russia and European security watchdog the OSCE.
“We’ve prepared 225 people, which we will hand over. The main thing is for this not to fall through now,” said Ukrainian security aide Markiyan Lubkyvsky.
Rebels in Donetsk claim the swap has already been completed, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
The peace plan also includes a ceasefire, agreed by Kiev and rebels in September – although 1,300 people have been killed since the deal was struck.
These violations of the truce, and rogue elections held by the separatists, have meant much of the ceasefire remains unimplemented.
The separatist uprising began a month after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March.
This followed the popular overthrow of Ukraine’s Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.
The conflict has killed more than 4,700 people.
The now pro-Western government in Ukraine accuses Russia of orchestrating the rebel campaign – a charge denied by Vladimir Putin.
It is not known exactly how many prisoners are held by the two sides.
However, Ukraine said this month that about 600 of its nationals were in rebel hands.
Fighting has reduced in December, although Ukraine said attacks on its eastern position had been stepped up on Christmas Day.
“In the past two days, fighters started using artillery and GRAD rocket launchers. Attacks have intensified to a minor extent,” said military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.
“Rebels are using the ceasefire to regroup their forces.”