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Ukraine court convicts two Russian servicemen of terrorism

By Allen Cone
Ukraine court convicts two Russian servicemen of terrorism
Russian special forces soldiers Yevgeny Yerofeyev (L) and Alexander Alexandrov sit in a cage before a trial hearing at the Holosiivskyi District Court in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo by Nazar Furyk/Shutterstock

KIEV, Ukraine, April 18 (UPI) -- Two Russian servicemen were sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison in Ukrainian court on charges relating to their involvement in the pro-Russian separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The men, Alexander Alexandrov and his commander, Capt. Yevgeny Yerofeyev, were found guilty of preparing an "act of terror" and illegally crossing into occupied Ukrainian territory, among other charges.

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Russia has denied sending the troops to help rebel fighters. The nation says the two quit their special forces to take part in the fighting on their own.

Russia will seek to have the two men returned to their home country, Russian Consul to Ukraine Alexey Grubyu told reporters.

"All possible steps are taken within the legal framework to return our citizens to their homeland," Gruby said. "The pressure on the court was one of the reasons for the guilty verdict."

The consul declined to say whether a prison swap was discussed.

Lawyers for the detained Russians say they plan to appeal the decision.

Before the court session, Yerofeyev's lawyer said the verdict was a foregone conclusion because of Ukraine's desire to exchange the servicemen for Ukrainians detained in Russia, including pilot Nadezhda Savchenko.

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Savchenko, 34, was sentenced to 22 years in a Russian prison in March. The United States called it a "blatant disregard for the principles of justice."

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