Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nadiya Savchenko: Russia frees Ukraine servicewoman

May 25, 2016 (BBC News Europe) Russia has freed jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who became a symbol of resistance against Moscow. "I am free," Savchenko told a crowd of reporters and politicians as she arrived in Kiev as part of a prisoner swap with two alleged Russian soldiers. She was sentenced to 22 years in jail for killing two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine, charges she denied.

The two Russians - Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov - were earlier flown from Kiev to Moscow. Savchenko was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin before her return to Ukraine. Mr Putin said he had acted after meeting relatives of the two Russian journalists, who had asked him to show mercy to Savchenko.
In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko pardoned the two Russian nationals. In a tweet earlier on Wednesday, Mr Poroshenko wrote: "The presidential plane with Hero of Ukraine Nadiya Savchenko has landed!" Speaking to reporters at Kiev's Boryspil airport, Savchenko was in defiant mood. "I am ready to once again give my life for Ukraine on the battlefield," she said.
At a joint news conference with President Poroshenko later on Wednesday, Savchenko thanked her family and the people of Ukraine for supporting her while she was held in Russia. "Ukraine has the right to be, and it will be!" she said, pledging to do everything she could to free all Ukrainian nationals still being kept prisoner in Russia and in parts of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Meanwhile, President Poroshenko - who awarded Savchenko a Hero of Ukraine star - said: "This is our common victory!" He also personally thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and US President Barack Obama for supporting Ukraine.

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