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Human rights activist wants Savchenko swapped for two Russians arrested in Ukraine

March 14, 2016, 21:54 UTC+3 MOSCOW

"We believe it would be very humane to see Nadezhda Savchenko and our nationals — Yerofeyev and Alexandrov — return home," the head of the Russian Council for Civil Society and Human Rights says

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Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov

Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov

© Maxim Pub/TASS

MOSCOW, March 14. /TASS/. The head of the Russian Council for Civil Society and Human Rights under the Russian president believes it would be right to exchange former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko for two Russian nationals, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, arrested in Ukraine and facing life in prison.

"The Minsk agreements, their spirit, presuppose the all-for-all swap. We have repeatedly stressed that we believe it would be very humane to see Nadezhda Savchenko and our nationals — Yerofeyev and Alexandrov — return home. The quicker this happens, the better," Mikhail Fedotov told Rossiya 24 television on Monday.

He said the council was closely monitoring the situation. "The current developments in Ukraine worry me, as information has come that the lawyer of one of our guys has gone missing, while another one is threatened with criminal prosecution," he said.

"I would like to see this swap take place as quick as possible," he noted. "This would contribute to the implementation of the Minsk agreements and restoration of normal relations between our peoples," the head of the council remarked.

Russian citizens Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev were detained by Ukraine’s forces on May 16, 2015, in the Lugansk region in eastern Ukraine. Kiev claims that the detainees are Russian military servicemen. Russian Defense Ministry said the two men "were not active service members of the Russian armed forces when they were detained." They are accused of crossing the border illegally, illegal weapons possession and participation in a terrorist group. The two Russians are facing life in prison if found guilty.

Alexandrov and Yerofeyev claim they are not guilty on any of the charges. Their lawyers say that the two men should be considered prisoners of war as they both served as militiamen in the people’s militia of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) when they were detained.

Nadezhda Savchenko is now under trial in the city of Donetsk in Russia’s Rostov region. She is charged under three articles of the Russian Criminal Code "murder", "attempted murder" and "illegal border crossing".

The prosecution argues that on June 17, 2014 Savchenko was in the area controlled by the para-military battalion Aidar near the Metallist community, the Lugansk Region, from where she adjusted artillery fire against a roadblock held by militias of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic and a group of civilians present there, including three Russian television journalists. The explosion of a mortar shell killed two of them - Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.

The trial against Savchenko began on September 22, 2015. The court is to read out a verdict on March 21-22. The prosecutor wants her sentenced to 23 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 rubles.

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