MOSCOW, November 11 (Itar-Tass) —— The Russian ambassador to Tajikistan was summoned to Moscow for brief consultations. He will be back on Monday, a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry told Itar-Tass on Friday.
“After his meeting with the Tajik president, Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Yuri Popov was summoned to Moscow for brief consultations. He will stay here for a few days and will return to his duties on Monday,” he said.
Popov met with Emomali Rahmon on Thursday to discuss “the conviction of Russian airline pilots, including Russian citizen Vladimir Sadovnichy,” a diplomat told Itar-Tass in Dushanbe.
The Kurgan-Tyube City Court sentenced Vladimir Sadovnichy of Russia and Alexei Rudenko of Estonia to 8.5 years in a maximum-security penitentiary for the breach of Tajikistan’s air space and contraband. The pilots were apprehended in March 2011. They pleaded not guilty.
The two pilots of a Russian airline registered on the Virgin Islands were seized by Tajik security service officers in March 2011 as soon as their Antonov An-72 jets touched down in the Kurgan-Tyube airport. The bill of indictment said that the pilots breached the rules of international flights and illegally crossed the border of Tajikistan. The prosecutor demanded 13 years in custody for each. The trial started on October 13.
The lawyer said that the pilots had a preliminary permit to fly across the Tajik border but the Tajik authorities suddenly denied them the entry when the planes were already in the air.
Earlier both pilots worked in Afghanistan. Their Afghan contract ended on March 10, 2011.
The Kurgan-Tyube trial triggered a broad public response. Representatives of the Russian and Estonian embassies and Russian journalists attended the trial.
The State Duma called ‘dubious and unjust’ the guilty verdict of a Tajik court on two pilots of the Russian Rolkan Investments Ltd airline and urged an appeal for acquittal.
The Russian parliamentarians said that the sentence was too severe. “I am confident that Russia should use every chance for a review of the unfoundedly severe sentence within the framework of Tajik laws,” Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachyov said.
“The guilty verdict is unjust, and the crime itself is in question,” First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Civil, Criminal and Arbitration Law and Practice Committee Andrei Nazarov said. “We kept hoping for an acquittal till the very end.”
It is still necessary to analyze the case fully but Russia should start up the appeal mechanism right now, he said. “I hope the pilots will be acquitted in the end,” he said.
First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky said that everything must be done for the release of the pilots. “Russia should engage in international negotiations and provide professional defense to the pilots for their appeal of the sentence, which is too severe. Bilateral contacts should start, including parliamentary diplomacy, and apt lawyers should be hired to study the case and to formulate the appeal correctly,” he said.
The deputy said he was surprised with the court ruling made in a close and constructive neighbor of Russia. “We shall work. I hope that Moscow and Dushanbe will arrive at a common stand. It is no time for comments; decisions must be made,” he concluded.
In turn, the Estonian Foreign Ministry said Estonia together with Russia and the European Union would continue the search for an acceptable solution to the case of Russian airline pilots, Estonian citizen Alexei Rudenko and Russian citizen Vladimir Sadovnichy.
“The motives of the Tajik court are unclear, and further custody of the Estonian citizen is unfounded,” the ministry said. “There is a joint search for a solution, and we will involve our partners in the EU and Russia in it if necessary.”
Anyway, Estonia will insist on the extradition of its citizen. “Estonian citizens serving time in prisons of third countries have a possibility to be transferred to Estonia in the case of a bilateral agreement to that effect,” the ministry said.