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Russia to continue pressing for release of pilots in Tajikistan

November 10, 2011, 20:37 UTC+3

“This underlines once again the fact that we’re waiting for well-substantiated explanations,” Lukashevich said

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MOSCOW, November 10 (Itar-Tass) – Russia will continue taking all the measures in its power to attain a release of the commercial aviation pilots sentenced to jail terms in Tajikistan, Alexander Lukashevich, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokesman said Thursday.

He said it in a comment on allegations in some mass media that Moscow ostensibly turned a blind eye on the pilots’ plight following their detention and in the initial phases of the trial.

Lukashevich recalled that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave a particular focus to the problem in a conversation with his Tajikistani counterpart Khamrahon Zarifi Wednesday.

Lavrov called Zarifi’s attention to the fact that Moscow has not received a clear answer to date on why the Tajikistani side, which is bound by international obligations and the 1996 bilateral consular convention failed, to inform Russia four days in advance – as stipulated by the convention – on the arrest of a Russian national and his Estonian colleague.

“We learned about what happened /to the two men/ only May 16, 2011, and it was the executives of the airline the two pilots were working for and not the Tajikistani authorities that provided the information,” Lukashevich said.

“This underlines once again the fact that we’re waiting for well-substantiated explanations,” he said.

“Right after we learned about the arrest, our embassy in Tajikistan filed queries not only with the country’s Foreign Ministry but also with its National Security Committee, and it asked both agencies to explain for the situation,” Lukashevich said.

“We did get the explanations May 31 in an official and rather formal note,” he said. “After that the Russian diplomats and representatives of our ministry maintained close contacts with practically all the bodies of state power in Tajikistan to keep a clear vision of developments.”

The pilots working for the airline Rolkan -- the Russian citizen Vladimir Sadovnichy, and Alexei Rudenko, a national of Estonia -- were arrested March 12, 2011, after a forced landing in the airport of the city of Kurgan Tube.

A Tajikistani court sentenced them to 10.5 years in a high security prison but after an amnesty signed by President Emomali Rakhmon the term was slashed by two years.

The pilots were found guilty of all the three offenses the Tajikistani law enforcement agencies had charged them with initially – an encroachment on the regulations for international flights, unauthorized border crossing, and contraband.

The Tajikistani government has also confiscated the two Antonov-72 (NATO reporting name Coaler) transport aircraft Sadovnichy and Rudenko had been flying.


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