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Ukrainian filmmaker and activist Oleg Sentsov chats with reporters after being released from Russia on Sept. 7. Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

After weeks of negotiations, Russia and Ukraine exchanged 35 prisoners each on Saturday in what could be the "first step toward easing tensions between Moscow and Kiev," reports the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: Tensions between the 2 former Soviet countries have been high since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, per the WSJ. This "rare agreement" could lead to further negotiations, but some caution that the process will be lengthy and complicated.

Who was released:

  • Moscow released 24 Ukrainian sailors who had been captured by Russia near the Crimean peninsula in 2018, per the BBC.
  • Ukraine released Volodymyr Tsemakh, who is being investigated for allegedly shooting down a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014 — which killed all 298 people on board, says BBC.
  • Ukrainian officials received filmmaker and activist Oleg Sentsov, who was jailed for 20 years on allegations of plotting a terror attack in Crimea, found the BBC.

Context:

  • The Russia-Ukraine conflict has strained relations between the U.S. and other Western countries and prompting President Obama to remove Russia from the G8 following the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
  • Hostility in Ukraine between troops and Moscow-backed separatists has left 13,000 people dead, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Ukraine's TV-star-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky campaigned on the release of prisoners from Russia, says the Wall Street Journal.

Go deeper...Pompeo: U.S. doesn’t recognize Crimea as part of Russia

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Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.