Kremlin rejects call for Ukrainian pilot's release under Minsk protocol

By Amy R. Connolly   |   March 27, 2016 at 3:41 PM

MOSCOW, March 27 (UPI) -- The Kremlin said former Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko, convicted in the deaths of two Russian journalists, will serve her full 22-year prison sentence, rejecting calls for her release according to the Minsk protocol.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Sunday rejected calls for Savchenko to be released under the Minsk accord, which calls for the pardon of those involved Donetsk and Luhansk conflicts and the release of illegally detained people. Savchenko is being held as a "suspected person,", Zakharova said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a possible prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, still under review by President Vladimir Putin, will not be linked to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

"As far as Savchenko is concerned, the situation for us is as simple as it can be – Savchenko has been convicted, and everything else happens accordingly to the Russian legislation. She will serve her sentence. Other decisions can only be made by the head of state. There has been no such decision yet," Peskov said Saturday.

Savchenko, 34, was found guilty on March 22 of directing military fire on Russian journalists Igor Vladimirovich Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, killing them in mortar attacks at the Russian border near Luhansk, Ukraine. The Ukraine and United States has called for her release, saying the charges are false.

Sunday, local media reported Savchenko's health was worsening while in prison. She has been refusing food, is weak and has extremely low blood pressure. She insists only being seen by Ukrainian or international doctors, a request that has largely been ignored, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"We are outraged by the unfounded refusal of the Russian side to allow qualified Ukrainian doctors to visit Nadiya Savchenko, which indicates an attempt of the Russian authorities to conceal her real health condition and deceive the international community about the so-called satisfactory state of health," official said.

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