Russia,Ukraine Negotiate Prisoner Swap

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- A Kremlin envoy to the talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine said Wednesday that another exchange of prisoners is being negotiated.

Dmitry Kozak, Russian President Vladimir Putin's aide on Ukraine, said the lists of prisoners to be exchanged by Ukrainian authorities and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine should be verified until March 18. He added that "there is a hope" that the deal will be made later this month.

Speaking after a round of talks with the Ukrainian president's chief of staff Andriy Yermak in Minsk, Belarus, Kozak said that they also discussed ways of political settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland flared up in April 2014 weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The fighting has killed more than 14,000.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected in April, made the conflict settlement his top priority.

In December, leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany made a deal to exchange prisoners and take new steps to ensure a lasting cease-fire in fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists. They made no immediate progress, however, on key contentious issues — a timeline for local elections in eastern Ukraine and when Ukraine can get back control of its borders in the rebel-held region.

(KR)