Exchange of hostages should engage professionals: Why Zelensky fired Lutkovska?.

Prisoner swap, Dec. 29, 2019

Zoya Shu/112.ua

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky by his decree dismissed Valeriya Lutkovska from performing the functions of the authorized representative of Ukraine in the working subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group on the peaceful settlement of the situation in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

It is significant that the president’s website did not report on the reasons for Lutkovska’s dismissal. The latter commented that she did this of her own free will. However, on February 5, in a commentary to Donbas News, Valeriya Lutkovska reported that she would only temporarily stop participating in the meetings of the TCG. “Believe me, it will be a very short time,” she said.

It is worth noting that Lutkovska gave rather strange statements in the process of preparing for the last prisoners exchange, which took place on December 29. Let me remind you briefly about it.

After the Normandy format meeting, President Zelensky announced that the Ukrainian side was ready to take back 72 of their prisoners. However, Ms. Lutkovska stated that the Ukrainians were ready for an exchange and ready to accept 77 Ukrainian hostages. This discrepancy in numbers created a dangerous precedent when the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic and Russia announced the inconsistency of the Ukrainian lists and the exchange process itself was questioned.

This was confirmed by the statements of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic representative Olga Kobtseva that the lists were not agreed by the Ukrainian side. This, as well as similar statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave reason to slow down the exchange process for at least two weeks. And only after these statements from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic and the Russian Federation, on January 23, Valeriya Lutkovska stated that the lists for the exchange are still being agreed upon and "polished."

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In addition, such statements by Lutkovska about 77 prisoners actually played a role in lowering the subjectivity of the president of Ukraine. Was this done consciously or unconsciously, but on the whole, the fact demonstrated that the president, as the first and highest official in Ukraine, does not possess all the information regarding the hostage exchange process.

Already after the exchange, Valeriya Lutkovska said that about 300 hostages are being held in the ORDLO, of which the Ukrainian side has confirmed data for 100. There is information on other prisoners, but the verification process is still ongoing. "We have about 100 people for whom there is confirmation, their relatives brought documents. And about 200 people, of whom there is no exact confirmation yet. That is, we need to work on 300 people," said Valeriya Lutkovska .

It is also indicative that two weeks after the statement of Lutkovska, the SBU officially announced the detention of 184 civilians. "According to information records of the Joint Center for the Coordination of the Release... as of January 20, 2020, 184 people are being requested as illegally deprived of their liberty on the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions," the Security Service said in a response at the request of Radio Liberty

That is, an incomprehensible game is already taking place to lower the subjectivity of the Ukrainian intelligence service, which, in fact, is involved in the verification and release of prisoners. Therefore, the absence of Lutkovska during the last round of negotiations of the TCG in Minsk is a very understandable fact.

Hostages should be exchanged by professionals, not politicians. Now the Major General of the Security Service of Ukraine Gennadiy Kuznetsov has been appointed the representative of Ukraine in the working subgroup on humanitarian issues of the Trilateral Contact Group.

Related: Ukrainian ombudsman asks UNICEF to provide human rights protection for boys detained in Kerch

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