Ukraine and Russia agree new prisoner swap in talks, says Russian official

Tatiana Moskalkova, Russia's human rights ombudsman, and her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Lubinets meet in Ankara, Turkey, January 11, 2023. REUTERS/Ece Toksabay

ANKARA, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Russia and Ukraine have agreed on an exchange of 40 prisoners of war each, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on Wednesday after meeting her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Lubinets in Turkey.

Moskalkova and Lubinets were meeting on the sidelines of an international ombudsman conference in Ankara. Photos showed them sitting on opposite sides of a table.

"It is very important that the ombudsmen of Ukraine and Russia, in the absence of diplomatic relations (between the two countries), take concrete actions to help people," Moskalkova told reporters.

Russia and Ukraine have conducted numerous prisoner swaps - most recently on Sunday - amounting to hundreds of captives each in the course of the war, which is now in its 11th month.

In a separate press appearance, Lubinets said the swap agreed on Wednesday was part of a broader arrangement by which both sides regularly exchange prisoners but underscored that they had not signed any official agreements.

"We will not sign any agreements, but we have the straight connection between Ukraine ombudsman and ombudsman of Russian Federation," he said.

Lubinets added that the Ukrainian side had voiced, among other issues, its concerns over alleged Russian violations of the Geneva Convention in its treatment of Ukrainian POWs.

Earlier, Moskalkova said on the Telegram messaging app that she and Lubinets had also discussed the issue of servicemen missing on both sides, and civilian humanitarian issues.

She said she had asked Lubinets to help Ukrainian citizens who want to visit relatives in Russia.

Given the current difficulty of establishing humanitarian corridors inside Ukraine, Moskalkova said the ombudsmen should help specific people to move between regions and countries, saying Turkey could play an important role.

Separately, Russia's state-owned RIA news agency quoted Moskalkova as saying "important words about the need for a ceasefire" in Ukraine had been spoken during her meeting with her Ukrainian and Turkish colleagues.

Moskalkova said a ceasefire was necessary to stop human rights violations, RIA reported. She also asked Turkey, a NATO ally, to stop supplying arms to Ukraine.

As Moskalkova and Lubinets met in Ankara, a fierce battle was raging for the small town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine.

Both were later due to visit the Turkish presidential palace, where President Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to make a speech for the conference.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Mert Ozkan in Ankara, Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Writing by Daren Butler and Gareth Jones; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Kevin Liffey, William Maclean

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