Prisoners exchanged in Ukraine as US weighs new Russian sanctions

Prisoners exchanged in Ukraine as US weighs new Russian sanctions
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Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists swapped a first round of prisoners Saturday, according to President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, while both sides continued to accuse the other of breaking a cease-fire signed last week.

Poroshenko announced 139 Ukrainian prisoners had been released as of Saturday afternoon. The Associated Press reported they were exchanged for 52 rebel prisoners. 

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The exchange was part of a larger deal brokered earlier this month, with the aid of other European countries. Throughout the week, however, both sides have accused the other of violating the terms. 

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryUN chief warns unchecked climate change will mean 'survival of the richest' Conservatives rip FBI over IG report: 'scathing indictment' Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill MORE said the United States is considering stepped up sanctions against Russia for allegedly providing ongoing aid to the rebels. The United States last week accused the country of supplying weapons to the rebels and helping to launch rockets at a strategic target.  

The United States has imposed a number of sanctions on businesses and officials associated with the Russian government in the past year. 

“I’m confident that over the course of the next days, people are determined to make it clear we're not going to play this game,” Kerry said earlier Saturday while in London. 

It has been a year since the protests that ousted former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, helping to set off the turmoil in the country, including the Russian annexation of Crimea last March. 

“For three months ending last year, Ukrainians braved long nights, bitter cold, and violent crackdowns by a government that refused to hear its own people. Snipers shot at them from rooftops, cutting down more than 100 people — protesters and police alike,” Kerry said in a statement earlier Saturday marking the anniversary. 

He added: “Ukrainians celebrate this weekend the first anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity, when the EuroMaidan protestors stood up against injustice and sparked the birth of a new Ukraine.”