Kremlin: After Savchenko sentencing, proposed prisoner swap is in Putin's hands

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |  March 23, 2016 at 10:29 AM
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MOSCOW, March 23 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin can arrange a prisoner exchange involving convicted Ukrainian army pilot Nadiya Savchenko but has made no decision, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Savchenko, 34, was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Tuesday after she was found guilty of murder in the 2014 deaths of Russian journalists Igor Vladimirovich Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin. The journalists were killed in a mortar attack on the Russian border near Luhansk, Ukraine. Prosecutors had argued that Savchenko, one of Ukraine's first female military pilots, helped direct artillery fire toward the rebel checkpoint where Kornelyuk and Voloshin were speaking with locals. She was charged with murder, attempted murder and illegally entering Russia. After the verdict was read, Savchenko began singing a patriotic Ukrainian song and was joined by several people in the courtroom, underscoring the political nature of the trial. {link: : "" target="_blank"}Immediately after the verdict, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued a statement indicating his willingness to trade two Russian citizens imprisoned in Ukraine on terrorism charges, Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Aleksandrov, and referred to an alleged promise Putin made to hand Savchenko back to Ukraine after the trial. On Wednesday, the Kremlin offered no confirmation of the promise.

The exchange would be conducted after the trials, in Ukraine, of Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov, Poroshenko said.

"I do not know about such agreements. In all other respects only the president can make such a decision. What decision there will follow I cannot say for now," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that Russia will abide by national legislation regarding the law and the outcome of the trial.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov concurred Wednesday after meeting with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his German counterpart, who expressed concern about Savchenko's health and said he hoped for a "humane solution."

"Today we handed over an additional memo on this issue to German colleagues," said Lavrov. "We hear of proposals on the swap, and the issues will be considered in full accordance with the Russian legislation, the decision is taken by the head of state."

Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.

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