Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk: Separatists are blocking the exchange of prisoners

On January 16, this year's first meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on the peaceful settlement of the situation in the Donbas was held in Minsk. Iryna Herashchenko, Member of the Ukrainian humanitarian subgroup said that representatives of separate areas of Donetsk and Luhansk (ORDLO) are blocking the release of the hostages. The separatists have apparently stepped up attempts to exclude her from the negotiating process.

On her Facebook page Iryna Herashchenko wrote, "Despite the call of the Normandy Format leaders and TCG to release the hostages before the New Year and despite the Ukrainian good-will gesture of making a one-sided transfer of 15 people, the liberation of the hostages is now blocked. At the same time the representatives of ORDLO said that their gesture of goodwill is the transfer of Taras Kolodiy and two women, the fates of which we have repeatedly discussed in Minsk. And now they are again pushing for an immediate amnesty as a prerequisite for the release and transfer to them of nearly 700 people in exchange for 50 [Ukrainians]."

She also added that in spite of the promise to release before the New Year holidays teens who are accused of sabotage, ORDO is still holding minors in prison.

"The Ukrainian side insists on the immediate end to the blocking of the release of hostages, we insist on the realistic compromises already proposed a few months ago," Herashchenko stated.

In addition, she stated that separatists are blocking the work of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) on the occupied territory. "[The separatists] did not allow the ICRC into prisons on the occupied territories and in the Russian Federation. They were never given the opportunity to meet with the Ukrainian hostages or to give them humanitarian aid," Herashchenko added.

At the same time, the separatists have stepped up efforts to eliminate Herashchenko from the Minsk process. This was reported by the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper with reference to its source in the TCG.

According to the source, the representatives of the militants started to talk about the alleged involvement of Herashchenko in the "coup d'etat.” They also insist that they will negotiate the release of hostages only with Viktor Medvedchuk (the godfather of Russian President Vladimir Putin).

The separatists have also said that "in contrast to Herashchenko, in the Ukrainian parliament there are people who treat the leaders of ORDLO with respect." They then aggressively demanded that representatives of the OSCE ban Herashchenko from giving interviews or talking about the complete dependence of ORDLO leaders on Moscow.

Earlier, a representative of the militants in Minsk, Denis Pushilin, said that TCG has made changes to the “all for all” formula of exchanging prisoners. "At the last meeting in Minsk an additional change was proposed: ‘all confirmed for all confirmed.’ And the negotiators have decided on the numbers. But the problem is not just in numbers," a separatist resource quotes Pushilin as saying.

Then, Herashchenko stated that Russia is blackmailing Ukraine with prisoners, which it has not released despite the agreements, and that negotiations on the release of Ukrainian hostages should continue with the aggressor country, not with the militant leaders.

  Ukraine, Donbas, Trilateral Contact Group, Prisoners