Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners in push to deescalate tensions

Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners in push to deescalate tensions
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Russia and Ukraine on Saturday initiated a swap of dozens of prisoners in what is being viewed as a push to deescalate tensions between the two nations that have lasted for years.

A plane carrying 24 Russia-detained Ukrainian sailors took off from Vnukovo Airport near Moscow, while a similar plane from Borispol Airport near Kiev took flight, The New York Times reported.

A total of 35 people — 24 sailors and 11 convicted Ukrainians — are included in the long-awaited exchange, the Times reported.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE hailed news of the prisoner swap on Twitter, calling it "very good news" and a potential "first giant step to peace."

Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker with a 20-year prison sentence on terrorism charges, was also part of the swap, his lawyer tweeted. 

The Russian Embassy tweeted a photo of the released Russians, saying, “Our people have been released! They are flying home.”

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Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTrump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury Trump accuses Schiff of leaking information that Russia was helping Sanders Sanders is a risk, not a winner MORE said Thursday that the swap would be a “good step forward toward the normalization [of relations],” Reuters reported.

It is unclear how many Russian prisoners are being held in Ukraine.

Ukraine still wants back the Crimea region, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014 and led to Europe-imposed sanctions on the Russian economy. But the swap is thought to be a good sign for talks between the nations as Russian-backed separatists continue controlling a region of eastern Ukraine, Reuters reported.

More than 13,000 people have been killed during the conflict.

Updated: 9:55 a.m.