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Mass Prisoner Swap Takes Place In Ukraine

The front-line exchange of prisoners of war was agreed to as part of a cease-fire deal, which has been tested by continued fighting.

Posted on February 21, 2015, at 2:22 p.m. ET

Ukrainian prisoners of war are held by pro-Russian rebels before a prisoner exchange on Feb. 21, 2015, near Zholobok, Ukraine.
Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

Ukrainian prisoners of war are held by pro-Russian rebels before a prisoner exchange on Feb. 21, 2015, near Zholobok, Ukraine.

Ukraine's government completed a mass prisoner swap with Russian-backed rebels on Saturday, as both sides freed scores of captured fighters.

The prisoner exchange, which the Agence France-Presse reported took place near the frontline town of Zholobok, was agreed to as part of a cease-fire deal that has otherwise been ignored as rebels seized the contested town of Debaltseve earlier this week.

Writing on Twitter, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed the exchange had taken place.

139 Ukrainian soldiers have been released from captivity.

Петро Порошенко@poroshenkoFollow

139 Ukrainian soldiers have been released from captivity.

1:32 PM - 21 Feb 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images
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Rebels told the AFP and Associated Press that 52 separatists were being freed in return for the Ukrainian soldiers.

Some freed Ukrainian servicemen were wounded and others walked on crutches, according to the AFP.

Rebels told the AFP that some of the freed government soldiers had been captured when the separatists surrounded the strategic town of Debaltseve on Wednesday.

The withdrawal of government forces from the hotly contested town had been a huge defeat for Poroshenko's government.

Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images
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