Israeli Among pro-Russian Rebels Swapped for Ukrainian Soldiers

Alexander Vitko, an Israeli citizen, was one of 38 Donetsk People's Republic fighters exchanged for 35 Ukrainian soldiers on Saturday, report says.

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Pro-Russian rebels wait in a bus before being exchanged for Ukrainian soldiers.
Pro-Russian rebels wait in a bus before being exchanged for Ukrainian soldiers.Credit: AFP
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Haaretz

An Israeli citizen who was captured by the Ukrainian army while fighting on the side of pro-Russian rebels was freed in a prisoner swap on the weekend, according to the IzRus news website.

Alexander Vitko was one of 38 Donetsk People's Republic fighters exchanged for 35 Ukrainian soldiers on Saturday in Konstantinovka, 60 kilometers from Donetsk. The exchange was organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe..

He told Russian reporters after the exchange that he had joined the rebels "to defend the freedom of the people."

According to IzRus a number of Israelis are fighting on both sides of the conflict in Ukraine.

Prisoner swaps between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists are held regularly, according to the Kyiv Daily website. An additional 28 prisoners from each side were due to be exchanged on Sunday.

The Saturday swap was previously scheduled for September 18 but did not take place since the DPR prisoner exchange committee had not received a confirmation from Kiev at that point.

The exchange of prisoners on September 20 was preceded by the exchange that took place on September 14. Both sides exchanged 73 prisoners.

A cease-fire agreement between Kiev and independence supporters in eastern Ukraine was established on September 5 during a meeting of the trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine in Minsk. The warring sides have repeatedly blamed each other for violating the ceasefire regime; however, both sides state that, for the most part, the ceasefire is holding, which has also been confirmed by international observers.

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