In Ukraine

From RT.com, Wednesday May 25, 2016

An aircraft carrying Russian citizens Evgeny Erofeev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov, part of a prisoner swap for Ukraine’s Nadezhda Savchenko, has landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport. Savchenko was pardoned by President Putin on Wednesday.

Ukrainian paramilitary Nadiya Savchenko (R) and sister Vera Savchenko at Boryspil International Airport, Kyiv on May 25, 2016 (Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

Ukrainian paramilitary Nadiya Savchenko (R) and sister Vera Savchenko at Boryspil International Airport, Kyiv on May 25, 2016 (Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

Putin ratified Savchenko’s pardon, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that the Russian leader signed the document simultaneously with the arrival of Erofeev and Aleksandrov in Moscow.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also signed a decree to pardon Russian citizens Evgeny Erofeev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov. The decree is dated May 24.

Savchenko has already been delivered to Kyiv on a Ukrainian plane.

In March 2016, a Russian court found Savchenko guilty of murdering Russian journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin near Lugansk, eastern Ukraine in June 2014. According to prosecutors, she relayed the coordinates of a checkpoint where the two reporters were subsequently killed by artillery fire of the Ukrainian extremist paramilitary battalion ‘Aidar’ near the town of Metalist.

The attack also resulted in the deaths of Ukrainian civilians. Afterwards, Savchenko illegally crossed the border into Russia. Savchenko took a leave of absence from the Ukrainian military in May 2014 in order to join the neo-Nazi ‘Aidar Battalion’ and wage civil war against the rebellious people of eastern Ukraine.

Reunion of Evgeny Erofeev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov with their wives in Moscow on May 25, 2016

Reunion of Evgeny Erofeev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov with their wives in Moscow on May 25, 2016

Russian citizens Evgeny Erofeev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov were sentenced in Ukraine in April 2016 to 14 years each in prison after a district court in Kyiv found them guilty of terrorist activities.

Both Erofeev and Aleksandrov maintain their innocence. The two men were captured in Donbass in May 2015, with Kyiv claiming they were Russian servicemen. The Russian Defense Ministry officially denied the allegations, stating that neither Erofeev nor Aleksandrov was serving in the Russian Army at that time.

When the aircraft with Aleksandrov and Erofeev landed in Moscow, their wives, Ekaterina and Yulia respectively, were there to meet them.

“We were waiting for them, we were very worried and hoped for their return,” Yulia Erofeeva said.

It has been revealed that in March, relatives of the slain journalists, Kornelyuk and Voloshin, addressed Putin with a plea to pardon Savchenko.

The president met with Kornelyuk’s widow, Ekaterina, and Voloshin’s sister, Maryana, on Wednesday to personally express his gratitude for their position.

“I want to thank you for your position and express hope that such a decision, motivated by humanitarian considerations in the first place, will lead to a de-escalation of the confrontation in a certain conflict zone and will help to avoid similar terrible and needless losses. Thank you very much,” Putin told the relatives of the deceased journalists.

Full background on the case of Ukrainian paramilitary Nadiya Savchenko, here:
Guilty: Russian court convicts Ukrainian paramilitary N. Savchenko of accessory to murdering journalists, New Cold War.org, March 21, 2016

Additional reporting:

Russian president pardons Ukrainian paramilitary Nadiya Savchenko in prisoner exchange

RT.com, May 25, 2016

President Vladimir Putin has pardoned Nadezhda Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who was given 22 years in jail for her part in the killing of two Russian journalists. Savchenko arrived today by plane in Kyiv while two Russian nationals jailed by Kyiv have returned to Russia.

A top European human rights official has welcomed the release of Savchenko by Russia and said he hopes it will lead “to more good things.”

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland described Savchenko’s release after two years in captivity as “a very good development,” noting she is also a member of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly.

Jagland made the comment to The Associated Press during a visit to Athens, saying he had asked for Savchenko’s release “for a very long time.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine would win back control of eastern territories and Crimea, just as it has secured the release of pilot Nadiya Savchenko from Russian prison. “Just as we brought back Nadiya, so we will bring back the (eastern) Donbass and bring back Crimea,” he said at a briefing following Savchenko’s return to Kyiv from Russia.

Kyiv has thanked the relatives of the dead Russian journalists for asking Vladimir Putin to pardon the jailed Ukrainian pilot, Nadezhda Savchenko. “They have found courage, generosity, and an understanding of what the fate of Savchenko, who was given a long prison sentence by a Russian court, means today. They [the relatives] have turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with a request for pardon,” Viktor Medvedchuk, Kyiv’s special envoy for humanitarian issues, told Russia-24 TV channel.

“This is a courageous civil gesture,” he added.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a decree to pardon Russian citizens Evgeny Erofeev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov.

Nadiya Savchenko vowed on Wednesday to fight for the release of other Ukrainians in Russian custody following her arrival in Kyiv from Russia as a result of a prisoner exchange.

“I will do everything possible in order that every person sitting in captivity be free,” she told a scrum of journalists at Kyiv’s Boryspol airport.

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