Russia and Ukraine on Saturday swapped 35 prisoners each, including filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, 24 Ukrainian sailors and potential MH17 witness Vladimir Tsemakh, in a key step toward bringing an end to the war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2014. 

Laden with wide-ranging implications, the move underlines new Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s commitment to his campaign promise to end the conflict in the Donbass region between government forces and Russian-backed separatists. It also is a signal from the Kremlin to the European Union that it is willing to play ball, political analysts say.

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“This is the most logical way to start peace talks,” said Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research group set up by the Kremlin. “And with Sentsov included in the swap, it represents quite a significant step by Moscow.”