Pope welcomes prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine

Pope Francis during the traditional Sunday sermon welcomed the release of prisoners by Russia and Ukraine, reports RIA Novosti news agency.

"Last week a long-awaited exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine took place. I am pleased with the news about the released people who were able to hug their families, and I continue to pray for a quick end to the conflict and sustainable peace in Eastern Ukraine," he said.

On September 7, Russia and Ukraine exchanged the prisoners according to the 35 to 35 formula. The list of prisoners released by Russia included Director Oleh Sentsov, 24 Ukrainian sailors arrested in the Kerch Strait, and ten others. The Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov confirmed that editor-in-chief of RIA-Novosti Ukraine news agency Kirill Vyshinsky returned to Russia. However, Peskov didn't mention the names of other participants of the exchange. Among the persons handed over to Russia was the former air defense commander of the Donetsk People's Republic Vladimir Tsemakh and 33 others.

After the exchange, the Netherlands officially demanded from Russia the extradition of Tsemakh. The official spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova refused to answer the question of whether Russia would extradite the former commander.

Tsemakh is a key suspect in the case concerning the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. Tsemakh was the air defense commander in Snizhne in July-August 2014 when the plane was shot down, and he hid the Buk missile system after the incident. Now Tsemakh has returned to the Donetsk People's Republic.

  Pope Francis, Russia, Ukraine, Tsemakh