Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that a prisoner swap with Ukraine will take place “in the near future”, confirming a step that EU countries hope will lead to a breakthrough in relations between Moscow and Kiev.

Russia and Ukraine have been in discussions over exchanging prisoners held by both countries, who have been in conflict since 2014 after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

During a press briefing in Vladivostok, Putin said, “It was quite hard for us to take a decision . . . but based on humanity, we are now about to complete talks” (sic).

“We will soon finalise our talks. It will be a large-scale exchange”, he added.

“The prospects of an exchange or future talks with Ukraine are something of a compass [for relations with Kiev]”, Putin said.

Leading EU countries such as France see the exchange as a prerequisite for new talks on a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia.

Earlier, addressing the Plenary Session of the fifth Eastern Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow’s relationships with India, China, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Japan and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region are based on principles of respect and honest dialogue.

“I am convinced they have great prospects which tally with the growing role that the Asia-Pacific region is to play in the coming decades,” he said.