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Prisoners with “added value”

December 28, 2017

A few weeks ago an entry appeared relating to the 2nd May 2014 tragedy in Odessa and the “prisoner swap” that occurred on 27th December 2017 – “Of the two most prominent Russian citizens, Sergei Dolzhenkov has either refused to partake in the prisoner swap or has inexplicably been omitted from the list, but Evgeni Mefedov appears set to return to Russia.

A further 4 Afghan veterans who attempted to create the “People’s Republic of Odessa”, as well as  Igor Makhinenko and former City Councillor Alexander Lutsenko also appear to be heading to Russia or the occupied Donbas in exchange for Ukrainian prisoners in the captured in the East.

Adding to that list heading to East is Vladimir Dorogokupets, Semen Boitsov and Maxim Genko (although not Miroslav Melnyk who appears not to be on the list for exchange).  Finally Alexei and Elena Vlasenko will also leave (government controlled) Ukraine too.

The exchange will mean that numerous cases (but not quite all) relating to 2nd May 2014 will effectively close.  Also cases of espionage, terrorist recruitment, conspiracy to murder (in fact a conspiracy to commit a political assassination), and a car bombing among others effectively shut too.”

While the nominated prisoners all headed east in preparation for the exchange, the Russian citizens upon the list were subsequently removed prior to the exchange.

Nevertheless 74 Ukrainians, the majority of which were not those who fought on the front lines, were released in exchange for 237 individuals prepared to enter the occupied Donbas.  (A further 40 were simply released rather than exchanged, and 29 at the last moment decided that Ukrainian detention was preferable to heading into the occupied Donbas.)

If not an “all for all” exchange, then 74 returning is still 74.  A tremendous result.

There remain well over 100 Ukrainians still in captivity in the occupied Donbas, plus those in Russian and annexed Crimean prisons.  Negotiations over another 29 Ukrainians are already underway.

So why, having been transported to Sviatohirsk in preparation for exchange, was Yevgeny Mefedov (a Russian participant in the 2nd May tragedy) struck from the list (together with Igor Kimakovsky, Olga Kovalis, Pavel Chernykh, Hajiyev Ruslan and several other Russian citizens)?

It is very clear that the courts and prosecutors office in Odessa would happily see him returned to Russia and the case, effectively closed, stamped “Prisoner Swap” (or similar).

Preparations for his exchange had been on-going since the entry linked above several weeks ago.

What changed?  And when?  And why did the other side accept it?

According to Valantin Rybin, Mr Mefedov’s lawyer, that Russian citizens had been struck from the list only became known very shortly before the exchange.  Yet despite the “This looks like a blatant deception” rhetoric of Mr Rybin – was it?

It appears that prisoners who hold the citizenship of the Russian Federation are to have, or are perceived to have “added value”, and that Ukraine intends to hold them and exchange them only for Ukrainians held in Russian and annexed Crimean jails.

So be it.  A dullard can see the perceived additional leverage/strengthened negotiating position in adopting such a stance in relation to such exchanges.

Perhaps the question is why was such “added value” seemingly recognised so late in the day?

Moscow has always taken pride in making every effort, often successfully, to get their citizens home.  Kyiv too will take pride in doing so – and it will certainly boost a potential defence and national security platform President Poroshenko may choose for reelection.

Quid pro quo?  Well perhaps.  If so it may well fall under the long shadow of politically expedient timing.  If that shadow prove very long, then Ukrainian due process will have to continue rather than sit in suspended animation – to the almost certain angst of the prosecutors and courts of Odessa.

More interestingly is when Moscow accepted that this was to be the case.  Or did it propose it?

One way or another both Ukraine and Russia had to buy into, or sell, no exchanges of Russian citizens relating to the occupied Donbas, yet allow other exchanges to occur.

The exchange of the 27th December occurred.  No last minute spanners were thrown into the works.  No cries of deception from either side have been made (lawyers for Russian individuals aside).

Does this separation of Russian prisoners allow The Kremlin to continue its farcical claim (even if only it believes anybody else believes) of non-involvement in the occupied Donbas?  A deliberate separation of Russian prisoners from any grubby exchanges related to the occupied Donbas, for the consumption of the domestic audience or the objectively retarded, hardly hinders such (threadbare) fiction.

Whatever the case, The Kremlin allowed the exchange to go ahead (let us not pretend the “Republics” have that sort of agency as an actor on the stage).  There is no reason to doubt the next prisoner exchange will occur – and perhaps reasonably swiftly.  It seems unlikely it will consist of any Russian citizens however – lest they lose their “added value”.

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