Ukraine president en route to Russia for swap deal: Report

May 25, 2016 5:00 pm

Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko seen inside the glass cage of a Russian courtroom (photo by AFP)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is traveling to eastern , taking along with him two Russian prisoners, to be exchanged with Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, a report says.
Interfax said the presidential aircraft carrying Russian citizens Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov would shortly leave Kiev for the Russian port city of Rostov-on-Don, where Savchenko has already been transferred.
Back in March, a court in Russia sentenced the helicopter pilot to 22 years in prison for complicity in the death of two Russian journalists in eastern two years before.
The 34-year-old pilot, who was fighting in a Ukrainian military group against pro-Russia forces at the time, denied the charges.

Russian prisoners Alexander Alexandrov (R) and Yevgeny Yerofeyev speak during a court hearing in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, April 18, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Ukrainian president subsequently offered to swap Savchenko, who has repeatedly gone on hunger strike, for the two Russian nationals.
The two Russians have been detained and tried for their alleged involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine says the two Russians are soldiers. Moscow denies the charge, saying they had served in the Russian military previously and were in Ukraine on their own will.
Moscow-Kiev ties have been in tatters since the Crimean Peninsula joined Russia in a referendum in March 2014.
Ukraine has also been carrying out a military crackdown on pro-Russian forces fighting for greater autonomy in the east.
According to the United Nations, over 9,000 people have lost their lives and some 20,000 have been injured in the conflict since April 2014.
Russia and Ukraine, along with Germany and France, agreed to a truce deal on Ukraine in the Belorussian capital of Minsk in February 2015. The ceasefire agreement reduced hostilities in the eastern regions of Ukraine but sporadic fighting occurs.
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