Putin, Ukraine’s leader talk about natural gas, prisoners

Vladimir Putin

FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to mark his 20th year in power, as the longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

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MOSCOW (AP) — The presidents of Russia and Ukraine have spoken by telephone to express satisfaction with a newly signed contract on natural gas transit and the recent exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east.

A Kremlin statement says the Tuesday call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took place on Ukraine’s initiative.

Sunday’s swap of a total of 200 prisoners has raised hopes of an end to the five-year-long war in eastern Ukraine that has killed 14,000 people.

The new contract allowing Russian gas to Europe to be shipped through pipelines that cross Ukraine will ease European fears of an interruption in Russian gas supplies over the winter. Russia ships about 40% of its European gas deliveries by that route and the old contract was to expire Tuesday.

Zelenskiy’s office said the leaders also discussed establishing a list to look into freeing Ukrainians and Russians being held by each other’s countries. The Kremlin did not mention that issue.

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