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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 TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump 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 PutinScarborough says he'll never return to Republican Party after GOP supported Trump Will Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? Russian vessel threatens to ram US warship in disputed waters in Sea of Japan 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.