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Published in Stream:
Day 745: March 3, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Journalist Varfolomeyeva Released from Captivity by Russian-Backed Militants in Prisoner Exchange
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Ukrainian journalist Mariya Varfolomeyeva was released from captivity by Russian-backed militants, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced on his Facebook page

 "I am proud of her courage and strength of spirit!," he wrote. On his Twitter account, he said "a lot had to be done to free her. Thanks to Irina Gerashchenko and all those who helped."

Gerashchenko is the Ukrainian ombudsperson for peaceful settlement of the situation in Donetsk and Lugansk regions. 

Last week during exchanges of POWs, Varfolomeyeva's name was mentioned but then she wasn't released immediately. The Ukrainian government made a special plea for her release as she had been held for more than a year.

Varfolomeyeva was arrested by forces of the self-proclaimed "Lugansk People's Republic" on January 9, 2015 and was accused of "espionage" and "membership in Right Sector," the ultranationalist group, Unian reported. 

Amb. Geoffrey Pyatt, US envoy to Ukraine, called on Russia to urge the militants to release all the Ukrainian hostages, in compliance with the Minsk agreement, Unian reported.

Gerashchenko reported on February 26 that 131 Ukrainians remain in captivity, despite the agreement under the Minsk accords to exchange "one for one."

In the case of Varfolomeyeva, the Ukrainian side in fact exchanged two people. President Poroshenko pardoned a Russian citizen, reported.  Later, 112 reported that both an unnamed female Ukrainian citizen who was said to have worked for the separatists as well as a Russian citizen, Ivan Gorbunov, were exchanged. Gorbunov did not admit his guilt.

Varfolomeyeva was said to be the last journalist held in captivity.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick