Kiev offers to swap two suspected Russian troops for Ukraine pilot

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  • Nadiya Savchenko
    Ukrainian politician

Kiev (AFP) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday offered to swap two suspected Russian soldiers captured in the separatist east for Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko who was sentenced to 22 years by a Russian judge.

Russian President Vladimir "Putin has said that after the so-called sentence, he will return Nadiya Savchenko to Ukraine," Poroshenko said in a statement published on the presidential website.

"The time to keep promises has come. I, in turn, am ready to hand over to Russia two Russian servicemen detained on our territory for their involvement in the armed aggression against Ukraine."

A judge in the southern Russia on Tuesday found the 34-year-old army helicopter navigator guilty of involvement in the June 2014 killing of two Moscow state television reporters in Ukraine's separatist east.

Savchenko denies the charges and the Ukrainian foreign ministry on Tuesday vowed to keep up the fight for her release and return home.

"This 'sentence' is not the end of our fight. It is the start of the new stage to #FreeSavchenko," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tweeted using the hashtag picked up by her supporters worldwide.

Poroshenko echoed those comments only moments after Savchenko's sentence was read in the southern Russian city of Donetsk.

"I am not only hopeful that Nadiya Savchenko returns to Ukraine but am also doing everything possible to make to happen."

The pro-Western leader added that Savchenko's trial was conducted by a "disgraceful kangaroo court".

Ukrainian television aired footage in May 2015 of two Russians who told reporters and their interrogators in separate interviews that they were acting servicemen who were sent into the war zone to support the pro-Moscow separatists by their Russian commanders.

Russia claims that the two were no longer enrolled in the military at the time they crossed the border into the eastern Ukrainian war zone.

It remains unclear when a Ukrainian court intends to issue a ruling in the two Russians' case.

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