March 9, 2018 / 2:16 PM / in a year

Ukraine detains prisoner swap organizer on terrorism charges

Member of Ukrainian parliament Nadiya Savchenko (R) speaks with Volodymyr (Vladimir) Ruban, head of Officer Corps centre, dealing with prisoners of war exchange in eastern Ukraine, as they attend a court hearing in Kiev, Ukraine March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

KIEV (Reuters) - A Ukrainian who negotiated the exchange of prisoners in the eastern conflict zone was placed under court-ordered detention on Friday on suspicion of preparing “terrorist acts”, after he was caught transporting weapons into Ukraine-held territory.

The flow of illegal weapons is one of the issues Kiev is grappling with as a result of its nearly four-year conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, in which more than 10,000 people have been killed and around 1 million displaced.

Volodymyr Ruban was apprehended on Thursday at a frontline checkpoint with a collection of weapons, including machine guns and explosives, the State Security Service (SBU) said, adding that it had been tracking his activities for some time.

In a meeting with the head of the SBU, President Petro Poroshenko said Ruban was part of a criminal network that had planned to destabilize Ukraine through violent attacks.

“Large-scale terrorist acts were being prepared in Ukraine,” Poroshenko said.

Ruban, who is the head of a non-governmental organization that has organized swaps of Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists, could not be reached for comment.

A Kiev district court ordered that he be detained for two months while the case is further investigated.

Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Gareth Jones

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