Ukrainian Pilot Released After Prisoner Swap with Russia

After two years, Nadia Savchenko is going home thanks to a high-profile prisoner exchange ordered by Vladimir Putin

June 03rd, 2016

On June 2014, Nadia Savchenko, a Ukrainian helicopter pilot, was sentenced to 22 years in a Russian prison. This controversial sentence was commuted last Tuesday, 24th of May, when she was released in a prisoner exchange.

An extremely sensitive matter, this high-profile prisoner swap was decided in a late night phone call on Monday, the 23rd of May, between Petro Poroshenko, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and Francois Hollande.

Nadia Savchenko was a deputy in the Ukrainian army when she was captured by separatist Russian supporters while fighting in east Ukraine in June 2014. She was accused of the murder of two Russian journalists and, even though she denied the charges, she was found guilty and sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The pilot's captivity led to a two-year diplomatic deadlock between Russia and the Ukraine. Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, accused Vladimir Putin of keeping her as a hostage (to exert pressure on Kiev over the war in east Ukraine) and promised he would do everything he could to get her back home. Through Petro Poroshenko's commitment, the idea of the prisoner swap took form. “I'm prepared to transfer two Russian soldiers involved in a military aggression against Ukraine,” President Petro Poroshenko declared.

The two Russian soldiers involved in the exchange are Alexander Alexandrov and Evgeni Erofeev, two alleged members of the Russian secret services, who had been held in Kiev and accused of fighting alongside pro-Russian rebels, against the Ukrainian army.

In the welcoming ceremony celebrating her release, the President Petro Poroshenko said that he believes that, now she has returned home, the next step will be for Ukraine to recover Donbass and Crimea. This symbolic episode for the Ukraine ended with Nadia saying she is ready to go back to the battlefield and fight for the remaining prisoners, for as long a time as she is needed.

In the Ukraine Nadia is being celebrated as a national hero. Europe now hopes that this move will serve to ease tensions between Russia and the Ukraine for the time being. In July there will be an EU decision on the renewal of sanctions against Russia.


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