March 9, 2018 / 2:15 PM / 9 months ago

Ukraine detains prisoner swap organiser on terrorism charges

A guard unlocks the handcuffs of Volodymyr (Vladimir) Ruban (R), head of Officer Corps centre, dealing with prisoners of war exchange in eastern Ukraine, inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Kiev, Ukraine March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

KIEV (Reuters) - A Ukrainian who negotiated the exchange of prisoners in the eastern conflict zone was placed under court-ordered detention on Friday on suspicion of preparing “terrorist acts”, after he was caught transporting weapons into Ukraine-held territory.

The flow of illegal weapons is one of the issues Kiev is grappling with as a result of its nearly four-year conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, in which more than 10,000 people have been killed and around 1 million displaced.

Volodymyr Ruban was apprehended on Thursday at a frontline checkpoint with a collection of weapons, including machine guns and explosives, the State Security Service (SBU) said, adding that it had been tracking his activities for some time.

In a meeting with the head of the SBU, President Petro Poroshenko said Ruban was part of a criminal network that had planned to destabilise Ukraine through violent attacks.

“Large-scale terrorist acts were being prepared in Ukraine,” Poroshenko said.

Ruban, who is the head of a non-governmental organisation that has organised swaps of Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists, could not be reached for comment.

A Kiev district court ordered that he be detained for two months while the case is further investigated.

Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Gareth Jones

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