German Chancellor Angela Merkel Saturday hailed a swap of 70 prisoners between Russia and Ukraine as a “sign of hope” and called for the implementation of a 2015 ceasefire deal that Paris and Berlin helped broker.
“This exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine is a sign of hope… it’s worth continuing the hard work to implement the Minsk accord,” Merkel said in a statement put out by her spokesman Steffen Seibert on Twitter.
“I am happy for the Ukrainian sailors and Oleg Sentsov who can finally return home,” she said.
The 43-year-old Sentsov was the most famous Ukrainian prisoner held in Russia and the subject of a star-studded international campaign calling for his release.
He was arrested in 2014 and had been serving a 20-year sentence in an Arctic penal colony for planning “terrorist attacks” in Crimea.
Russian coastguards captured 24 Ukrainian sailors off the coast of Crimea in November last year after seizing their three vessels.
Moscow had wanted to put them on trial for violating Russia’s maritime borders.