The Latest: Ukraine leader greets prisoners freed by Russia

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September 07, 2019 - 7:45 am

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, right, greets Ukrainian prisoners upon their arrival at Boryspil airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. Planes carrying prisoners freed by Russia and Ukraine have landed in the countries' capitals, in an exchange that could be a significant step toward improving relations between Moscow and Kyiv. The planes, each reportedly carrying 35 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously at Vnukovo airport in Moscow and at Kyiv's Boryspil airport. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Ukraine's president says the exchange of prisoners with Russia is a step toward improving relations between Moscow and Kyiv and eventually ending the conflict in Ukraine's east.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday greeted 35 Ukrainians who were freed by Russia as they debarked from a plane at an airport in the capital. Ukraine also freed 35 prisoners, who flew to Moscow.

"We have made the first step. It was very complicated. Further we will come closer to the return of our (war) prisoners," Zelenskiy said.

Eventually the process could lead to the end of fighting in the east, where Ukrainian forces have fought Russia-backed separatists since 2014 in a war that has killed more than 13,000.

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1:45 p.m.

Planes carrying prisoners freed by Russia and Ukraine have landed in the countries' capitals, in an exchange that could be a significant step toward improving relations between Moscow and Kyiv.

The planes, each reportedly carrying 35 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously at Vnukovo airport in Moscow and at Kyiv's Boryspil airport.

At the Ukrainian capital's airport, relatives stood on the tarmac waving as the plane taxied toward them. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was also at Boryspil.

Those released by Russia reportedly include 24 Ukrainian sailors who were detained last November by the Russian navy off the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

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11:10 a.m.

A Russian lawyer who has defended a Ukrainian imprisoned for spying says a widely anticipated exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine is underway.

A prisoner exchange could be a significant step toward easing Russia-Ukraine relations and raising chances for resolving the conflict in Ukraine's east where fighting between troops and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014.

Buses from a Moscow prison believed to be carrying Ukrainian prisoners arrived at the capital's Vnukovo airport on Saturday.

Attorney Mark Feigin tweeted that the exchange is underway and that the prisoners from the Russian side include 24 Ukrainian sailors who were seized by Russia in November, along with Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko who he has represented and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, convicted of plotting terrorist acts.

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