Press release

Ukraine: Prisoner Swap Is Small but Significant Step toward Ending Conflict

Ukraine and Russia swap prisoners in a show of respect for human rights and the rule of law.


In response to an exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia on September 7, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia is an important step toward reducing the human toll of this grueling conflict,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “Yet with more than 80 Ukrainian political prisoners still detained in Russia, including dozens of peaceful Crimean Tatar activists, justice is still elusive for many. Russia and Russian-backed forces in Donbas and Crimea should immediately release all remaining political prisoners and stop the politically motivated persecution of civic activists, journalists, peaceful believers in Islam, and others who have been subjected to trumped-up charges and show trials. The prisoner swap is significant for its impact on the lives of those affected, but it can have a broader impact if it leads both sides toward a renewed commitment to respect for human rights and the rule of law.”


On September 7, Ukraine and Russia swapped dozens of prisoners, some of whom had been held since 2014. Among those held by Russia and returned to Ukraine were Oleh Sentsov, a filmmaker and activist convicted on spurious terrorism charges, and Pavlo Hryb, an innocent teenager abducted in Belarus. Russia also returned the 24 Ukrainian sailors who were illegally detained in a naval confrontation in the Kerch Strait in 2018. In exchange for 11 political prisoners and the 24 sailors, Ukraine released dozens of individuals, including a man believed to be connected to the destruction of a civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine in 2014, as well as a Russian soldier captured in eastern Ukraine in 2017.

The Russian authorities and Russian-backed forces in Donbas and Crimea continue to hold at least 88 political prisoners, according to Ukrainian human rights advocates. By detaining and convicting many of them under Russian law, the Russian government has flouted international law and human rights principles. Among those still detained are:

1. Rustem Abiltarov
2. Tofik Abdulhaziiev
3. Eskender Abdulhaniiev
4. Vladlen Abdulkadyrov
5. Izet Abdullaiev
6. Teimur Abdullaiev
7. Uzeir Abdullaiev
8. Medzhyt Abdurahmanov
9. Rustem Abilev
10. Zevri Abseitov
11. Arsen Abhairov
12. Bilial Adilov
13. Raim Aivazov
14. Muslim Aliiev
15. Refat Alimov
16. Enver Ametov
17. Ernes Ametov
18. Osman Arifmemetov
19. Marlen Asanov
20. Farhod Bazarov
21. Akim Bekirov
22. Enver Bekirov
23. Remzi Bekirov
24. Memet Belialov
25. Oleksii Bessarabov
26. Rustem Vaitov
27. Valentyn Vyhivsky
28. Server Haziiev
29. Dzhemil Hafarov
30. Diliaver Hafarov
31. Kostiantyn Davydenko
32. Emil Dzhemadenov
33. Aider Dzhepparov
34. Arsen Dzhepparov
35. Volodymyr Dudka
36. Rustem Emiruseinov
37. Andrii Zahtei
38. Ruslan Zeytullaev
39. Server Zekiryaev
40. Tymur Ibrahimov
41. Riza Izetov
42. Rustem Ismailov
43. Edem Kadyrov
44. Eldar Kantemyrov
45. Yevhen Karakashev
46. Alim Karimov
47. Ihor Kyiashko
48. Andrii Kolomiiets
49. Emir-Usein Kuku
50. Hennadii Lymeshko
51. Enver Mamutov
52. Yunus Masharipov
53. Nariman Memedeminov
54. Remzi Memetov
55. Ruslan Mesutov
56. Yashar Muedinov
57. Seiran Murtaza
58. Server Mustafaiev
59. Ruslan Nahaiev
60. Enver Omerov
61. Riza Omerov
62. Erfan Osmanov
63. Yurii (Nuri) Prymov
64. Fevzi Sahandzhy
65. Ferat Saifullaiev
66. Aider Saledinov
67. Seiran Saliiev
68. Vadym Siruk
69. Seitveli Seitabdiiev
70. Enver Seitosmanov
71. Rustem Seithalilov
72. Edem Smailov
73. Maksym Sokurenko
74. Oleksii Stohnii
75. Eskender Suleimanov
76. Renat Suleimanov
77. Ruslan Suleimanov
78. Shaban Umerov
79. Lenur Khalilov
80. Oleh Chaban
81. Oleksii Chyrnii
82. Hlib Shablii
83. Rustem Sheihaliiev
84. Mykola Shyptur
85. Dmytro Shtyblikov
86. Oleksandr Shumkov
87. Viktor Shur
​88. Asan Yanikov

Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2019 and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2018.
Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2019 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2018