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MOSCOW, March 29. /TASS/. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday he knows nothing about the possibility to exchange convicted Ukrainian ex-military Nadezhda Savchenko for Russian citizens Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko who are serving lengthy jail terms in the United States.
"I have not heard anything about this. I saw media reports but I have no information," Peskov told reporters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the issue of Russian citizens’ confinement in American prisons last week, the presidential spokesman said. He confirmed that the names of Bout and Yaroshenko were mentioned during the conversation. Bout was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in jail in the US for alleged illegal arms deals. Pilot Yaroshenko was sentenced in 2011 to 20 years in jail in the US on charges of cocaine smuggling.
"In general, Russia has consistently declared its opposition to extraterritorial application of American law. In this connection we consider illegal the confinement of Bout and Yaroshenko, that is, Russian citizens, in American prisons," Peskov said. "Russia continues to consistently defend the interests of its citizens. It is in this context that these names were mentioned in the conversation with Kerry.".
Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said last week that the swap of Ukrainian ex-pilot Nadezhda Savchenko convicted in Russia for Russian nationals on trial in Ukraine, Alexander Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, is theoretically possible but only upon decision by Russia’s president.
On March 22, the Donetsk City Court in Russia’s southern Rostov Region found Savchenko guilty of directing the Ukrainian army’s artillery fire in east Ukraine that had killed Russian journalists. She was found guilty of the killing of VGTRK journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin and illegally crossing of the Russian border.
She was sentenced to 22 years in prison and a fine of 30,000 rubles ($440). As Savchenko said earlier, she didn’t recognize the court’s verdict but wouldn’t appeal against it.