What Happened: Russia and Ukraine exchanged 35 prisoners on each side on Sept. 7, AP reported. Those freed included 24 Ukrainian sailors and — controversially — Volodymyr Tsemakh, a "person of interest" in the downing of a Malaysian airliner in 2014 that killed all 298 people on board.
Why It Matters: The carefully negotiated and choreographed exchange could help advance Russia-Ukraine relations and end five years of fighting in Ukraine's east, though reaching a peace agreement faces many obstacles. The deal also brought Western praise and could thaw a freeze in relations with Moscow.
Background: Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014 and Russian-backed rebels began an insurgency in two regions of eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, elected in April, has listed ending the conflict as a top priority.
- Ukraine: The New President's Mandate for Change Faces a Stiff Resistance (April 22, 2019)
- Waiting for a Reality Check in Crimea, Five Years On (Feb. 27, 2019)