The former principal deputy chief monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug believes the prisoner exchange Ukraine and Russia concluded in a 35-to-35 format on September 7 was a very important move, despite the fact that Volodymyr Tsemakh, an MH17 downing suspect, was released by Ukraine as part of the swap.
“Aside from all the politics and the categories of the different prisoners, I do feel it was very important for individual Ukrainians that came back home after so many years, they themselves and their families. So one should not mix that private relief for this families and therefore also the relief for the society that waited and campaigned for them with categories of prisoners that have been exchanged or the politics that stand behind them,” Hug said to Hromadske on September 13, during the 16th Yalta European Strategy conference in Kyiv.
He also stated there are Ukrainian prisoners still in Russia, so the exchange should be considered as a first step.
“I think it was a very important move. It is also important that not all the prisoners were exchanged. More needs to follow now, of course,” Hug added.
Hug also argued the new Ukrainian government is moving in the right direction to improve the situation in Donbas.
Volodymyr Tsemakh was captured by Ukraine’s Security Service in the late June of 2019 in the Russia-occupied territories of Donbas. A former Donetsk "people's republic" soldier, he had allegedly participated in downing the MH17 Boeing on July 17, 2014. Despite being considered by the Dutch investigation as a witness and now as a suspect, Tsemakh was released by the Ukrainian authorities as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia. Before the release, according to both Ukraine's and Netherlands' government, Tsemakh was questioned by the Dutch investigators.