Ukrainian court frees Russian journalist

KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian court on Wednesday released a Russian journalist in an apparent signal that a much-anticipated prisoner exchange with Russia is getting on track.

The court in Kyiv freed Kirill Vyshinskiy on parole following more than a year in jail. Vyshinskiy, the Kiev bureau chief for the Russian state RIA-Novosti news agency, has been in custody since his arrest on treason charges in May 2018. Vyshinskiy, who has Ukrainian citizenship, has rejected the charges, saying that he only did his work as a journalist.

Vyshinskiy's release appears to herald the start of a prisoner swap with Russia that has been discussed since former comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy won the Ukrainian presidency in April.

Ukraine has urged Russia to release 24 Ukrainian sailors captured off Crimea in November, along with other prisoners. Zelenskiy has made getting Ukrainian prisoners home and settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine his top policy priorities.

It wasn't immediately clear if the expected exchange of prisoners would involve Oleg Sentsov, arguably the highest-profile Ukrainian imprisoned in Russia. A native of the Russia-annexed Crimea Peninsula, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2015 for conspiracy to commit terrorism. His supporters call the prosecution of Sentsov, who staunchly opposed the annexation of Crimea, politically motivated.

Last October, the European Union has awarded its human rights prize to Sentsov.

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