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Zelensky’s “Second Stage” Of Prisoner Swap: Releasing Crimean Tatars From “Russian Captivity”

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Zelensky's "Second Stage" Of Prisoner Swap: Releasing Crimean Tatars From "Russian Captivity"

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The recent 35 for 35 prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine once again demonsrated the two-facedness of mainstream media outlets:

Following the swap, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the second stage was to release the Crimean Tatars from “Russian captivity.” Accidentally, the Ukrainian President forgot to mention that these ‘political prisoners’ are various radicals and even members of illegal armed groups.

“This is the second stage. I think we will work seriously during the second stage. And we will return all our people. We will free them since many of our people are in Crimea,” Zelensky told journalists at Boryspil Airport.

He said he hoped it would happen as quickly as possible.

“I’m not talking about three, two, or one year. We want to do this very quickly… We dream and work,” Zelensky added.

Kiril Vishinsky, the chief editor of RIA Ukraine was one of the prisoners released by Ukraine. He said that this was a “tectonic shift” in relations between Russia and Ukraine.

After being released, Vishinsky met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and held a press conference.

Both Lavrov and RIA Ukraine chief editor expressed hope that the prisoner swap would lead to some sort of normalization of relations between Russia and Ukraine.

“I would like to say once again what the Foreign Ministry and our president [Vladimir Putin] and president Vladimir Zelensky said: it is a very positive step from the standpoint of the normalization of relations between Ukraine and Russia and progress towards a situation where we would stop looking at each other through  aiming sights — media, criminal, political or whatever — and just cooperate on the basis of common sense. We have much more in common than the wedges the radicals, neo-Nazis and all others have been trying to drive between us. They care the least about the interests of the Russian and Ukrainian people,” Lavrov said.

Vyshinsky replied he would be glad, if his professionalism and experience was of any use in normalizing Kiev-Moscow relations.

“I absolutely agree with you. If I can be of any help in this work, I will be gladly doing all I can, because this is very personal and painful to me. I chanced to meet different people, but I haven’t ever heard them call me ‘traitor.’ I do not know whether the people where I was kept were very tactful, or if thoughts like that never occurred to them. They did not believe the man in front of them was a political prisoner. They realized that. The more so, since the term ‘political prisoner’ in Ukrainian prisons is widely used. Regrettably,” Vyshinsky said.

One of the prisoners released by Ukraine was Vladimir Tsemakh, who the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team accuses as one of the witnesses related to the Malaysian Flight MH17 downing in 2014 over the Donbass. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) demanded that Tsemakh should remain available to the investigation committee.

Thorhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir, the Chair of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, has welcomed in principle the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

But Tsemakh, as a suspect must remain available to the Dutch authorities to be accused and potentially sentenced without any evidence.

“The fact that Ukraine allowed Mr Tsemakh to travel to Russia does not mean that he is no longer required to co-operate in the investigation of this terrible event. Russia is a member State of the Council of Europe and as such is legally bound to fight impunity.”

“I should like to add that, in early October, the committee I chair will appoint a Rapporteur mandated to assess the progress made in investigating this tragedy and holding to account those responsible.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and SBU Chief Ivan Bakanov said Tsemakh had been interrogated by Dutch investigators before the prisoner exchange.

It should be noted that the Dutch government contacted Ukraine “several times and at the very highest level” to not hand over Tsemakh in the framework of the swap deal. This demonstrated that the Dutch investigators are not a neutral side and is not interested in an objective investigation of the MH17 tragedy. The location of the witness should not be an obstracle if the ‘invesigators’ are not interested in pressuring him by various means. Nonetheless, it seems that from the very start, the Dutch government has been aware who was really responsible for the MH17 crash. So, it’s making every possible efforts to distort the course of the investigation and hide key evidence related to the case.

Zelensky is presenting the prisoner swap as a big victory that could potentially lead to peace in the Donbass, but that is quite far from the truth.

The “harvest ceasefire” is on its way to falling apart, the situation remains quite tense. Ukraine is currently on its way to an economic crisis, which Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky is attempting to blame on former President Petro Poroshenko (who is surely not without fault).

But even the smallest and presumed victories are currently needed to at least partially offset the crisis towards which Ukraine is headed. To substantiate the claims, out of 35 prisoners released by Ukraine – 22 were Ukrainian citizens. In Ukraine’s loosely used “political prisoner” term, more or less any Ukrainian, detained by Russia, be it on accusations of terrorism or otherwise is a “political prisoner” and warrants him being released.

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