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Ukrainian pilot Savchenko returned home in prisoner swap with Russia

By Ed Adamczyk
Ukrainian pilot Savchenko returned home in prisoner swap with Russia
Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko, convicted by a Russian court of murder and illegal border crossing, was freed Wednesday in a prisoner swap with Ukraine for two Russian intelligence officers convicted of terrorist activities. Photo courtesy of Podrobysti/Wikipedia

KIEV, Ukraine, May 25 (UPI) -- Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko was freed by Russia in a prisoner swap in which two intelligence officers will be returned to Russia.

Savchenko, 34, was sentenced to 22 years in prison in April for the deaths of two Russian journalists in Lugansk, eastern Ukraine, by reporting their coordinates to a Ukrainian artillery battalion. She was also convicted of illegally flying over the border into Russia. The charge of accessory to murder was upgraded to "joint perpetrator of murder" during the trial.

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Savchenko emphatically denied the charges and became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against Russia.

There has been no official confirmation of a swap, but local media sources, citing airport officials, say the official plane of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was sent to Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Wednesday to collect Savchenko and bring her back to Kiev.

RELATED Ukraine court convicts two Russian servicemen of terrorism

Savchenko's sister, Vira Savchenko, posted a photo to Facebook Wednesday morning of the two of them together after Nadiya was flown to Kiev's Borispol airport.

A prisoner swap had been anticipated after her conviction. The Russian news source RT said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal plane, carrying Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov, had left Kiev and was heading for Moscow.

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The two men were convicted in Ukraine of terrorist activities within Ukraine and sentenced in April to 14 years in prison. During prosecution they were identified as senior military intelligence officers, but Russia has denied they were on duty at the time of their arrest. Each man also denied the charges in court.

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

Poroshenko recently said he was prepared to pardon Yerofeyev and Alexandrov if Russia agreed to exchange them for Savchenko.

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

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