The work is still underway to release Ukrainian citizens held in the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas, in the temporarily occupied Crimea and in Russia, but this process is currently complicated by the spread of coronavirus in the world, as stated by Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak.
“This process is ongoing. It is complicated by the pandemic situation. That is why today the lists are being finalized, they are being updated,” Andriy Yermak said during an online briefing at the President's Office.
He stressed that the issue of liberation of Ukrainian citizens is one of the priorities for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his team members working in the Minsk and Normandy formats.
"The President has said many times: our goal is to bring back all our citizens, who, unfortunately, are now in the uncontrolled territory, in Russia and Crimea," Andriy Yermak stated.
The Head of the President’s Office also noted that before the coronavirus pandemic, the mutual liberation process had certain complications - representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross did not have access to the illegally detained Ukrainian citizens to confirm and clarify the lists. Currently, he said, there is progress in the given issue.
"We received confirmation from the members of the Trilateral Contact Group, there was a conversation between the President and the leader of the Red Cross regarding the immediate departure of representatives of the Red Cross to that territory. This will help us clarify the lists of all the people who are there. This work is going on, and I am hopeful that in a week or two we will start these exchanges,” Andriy Yermak noted.
According to the Head of the President's Office, he controls the negotiations on the release of Ukrainians and constantly reports on this issue to the Head of State, who monitors the process personally.
Andriy Yermak also stressed that work in this area should be more effective, because after the pandemic is over, Russia can step up activities to lift sanctions imposed by western states.
“Today, like the whole world, we are in a very difficult situation. With the end of the pandemic, each country will care about itself, including overcoming the economic crisis. And the issue of sanctions will be taken very seriously. And by this point, we must do everything to move forward (in the process of releasing Ukrainian citizens - ed.),” he said.
The Head of the President's Office reminded that sanctions are tied to the implementation of the Minsk agreements and therefore cannot be considered in another context.
He also added that Ukraine is developing its army and is ready to fight back the enemy, but at the same time continues to defend the return of its territories and citizens.
“We stand for peace. We stand for the return of our territories. We stand for the return of our citizens. That is our position,” Andriy Yermak summed up.