Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russian separatists free four more captives

The releases were part of a peace plan agreed in September, but fighting continues in the east of the country
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The Independent Online

A further four Ukrainian prisoners were released by pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country yesterday, officials claimed a day after hundreds of people were freed the previous day.

The release was announced by a Ukrainian defence ministry adviser Vasiliy Budik, who said three were soldiers and the fourth was a civilian.

It came after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko greeted some of those who had been released on Friday after a plane carrying them landed in an airport outside Kiev in the early hours of yesterday. The rebels released 145 people, reportedly in exchange for more than 200 people held by the government.

"My heart as that of a president and citizen is brimming with joy that you – as I had promised – will be able to meet the new year with your families and comrades and arms," Mr Poroshenko said as the released men huddled around him on the tarmac.

The releases were part of a peace plan agreed in September, but fighting continues in the east of the country, with the months-long conflict having claimed more than 4,000 lives. Inconclusive talks aimed at ending the fighting were held in Minsk, Belarus.

On Friday, Ukraine said it had frozen vital bus and rail links with Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in March.

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