In Russian-held Donetsk, freed POWs return to tearful reunions

AMVROSIIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) - Fighters affiliated with the Russian-installed administration of Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region arrived in the town of Amvrosiivka on Sunday after being freed in a prisoner swap with the Ukrainian military.

"I still can't believe I'm home," returning prisoner of war (POW) Maxim Chekanov told Reuters.

"It was so horrible, I wouldn't wish it on anyone," added Chekanov, who said he had been captured by Ukrainian forces on Oct. 11.

The fighters were freed during a prisoner exchange on Nov. 3, with the two sides in the eight-month-old conflict releasing 107 captives each.

Prisoner exchanges have been a regular occurrence during the conflict, with both military personnel and high-ranking politicians released in the swaps.

In Amvrosiivka, a town of 18,000 people close to the internationally-recognised border with Russia, Denis Pushilin, head of the region's Russian-installed administration, greeted the returning fighters.

Some of the men wept as they were reunited with tearful family members.

One woman, Lyudmila, said her returning son, Yevgeny, had lost a lot of weight since she last saw him. He walked slowly beside her, leaning on a walking stick.

"I didn't recognise him," she said through tears as they sat next to each other, asking not to give their full names.

"Everything will be okay, sweetie," she told Yevgeny, who clutched a handkerchief to his face.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Helen Popper)