Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko is set to be released from Russian prison after a late-night conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, according to the Ukrainian leader.
Mr Poroshenko announced the deal on Tuesday, a day after a Ukrainian court sentenced two Russian citizens accused of terrorism to 14 years behind bars. Although he did not specify whether Ms Savchenko would be exchanged for the two Russians, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, he conceded that their sentencing allowed for “certain opportunities for using the exchange mechanism.”
“I have repeatedly declared that I am ready to set all the wheels in motion that I can as the president of Ukraine for the immediate return of Nadezhda Savchenko and other Ukrainians to their homeland …. That is precisely why I initiated a conversation with Putin,” Mr Poroshenko told journalists at a joint briefing in Kiev with Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen. “It seems to me that we managed to agree on a specific algorithm for the release of Nadezhda.
“I’m ready to send presidential aircraft with representatives to return Nadia Savchenko to Ukraine,” he said.
The Kremlin has yet to comment on the matter. A statement issued late Monday by the Kremlin said merely that the issue had been raised in the telephone conversation between Mr Putin and Mr Poroshenko.
Ms Savchenko was sentenced to 22 years in prison by a Russian court in mid-March for allegedly helping Ukrainian forces to kill two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine in the summer of 2014. Ms Savchenko and her lawyers have repeatedly denied the charges and described the case as a show trial, arguing that the Ukrainian pilot was nowhere near the scene of the crime when it took place and was instead abducted from Ukrainian territory by Russians.
Ms Savchenko defiantly refused to recognize the Russian court’s verdict against her last month and has been on hunger strike ever since. The announcement of her impending release comes as her lawyer Mark Feygin warns that she “won’t last long” as her health deteriorates.
Mr Feygin expressed skepticism about the news of Ms Savchenko’s release in comments on Twitter.
“Personally, for me everything is clear from the Kremlin’s comments. Putin did not discuss the release of Savchenko. The president of Ukraine discussed it,” Mr Feygin wrote.