In the first exchange since September 2016, the Russian- backed eastern militia was handing over to Kiev
some 70 prisoners, officials from both sides said.
The Ukrainian side for its part was releasing some 300 rebels and their supporters.
An AFP reporter
at the scene saw a first group of around 15 people driven by bus to Ukraine-controlled territory.
The swap on the eve of the New Year and Orthodox Christmas
holidays was agreed following negotiations involving Russian President Vladimir Putin
and Ukraine's leader
Poroshenko personally coordinated all the work of all our relevant departments," lawmaker Iryna Gerashchenko, one of Ukraine's peace negotiators, said before the exchange.
The prisoner exchange is in line with the so-called Minsk
agreements brokered by Germany
The last prisoner swap between Ukraine
and Russian-backed rebels took place in September 2016 when two pro-Kiev
detainees were exchanged for four separatist fighters at a checkpoint outside the rebel-held city of Lugansk.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill helped mediate the talks on today's prisoner exchange.
"I hope that the process that has begun will continue and will guarantee the establishment of a just and long-lasting peace," he said on Monday.
of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk
People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, thanked the patriarch for his involvement.
"People who have spent more than three years in captivity will be able to return home thanks to the church and the authorities," he said.
The war in the east of the former Soviet republic broke out in April 2014, after Russia
annexed Crimea the previous month.
The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives.
A series of truce deals has helped lower the level of violence but not fully end the bloodshed.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)