KIEV, April 18. /TASS/. Russia will take steps within the legal framework to return Russian nationals Alexander Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev sentenced to lengthy prison terms in Ukraine to their home country, Russian Consul to Ukraine Alexey Gruby told reporters on Monday.
"The Russian side has taken and is taking all possible steps to return our citizens to their home country. Steps will be taken within the legal framework for returning Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev to their homeland," he said.
"One may write anything when one’s office is set on fire," he told reporters after the court’s decision was announced. "We, naturally, disagree. All possible steps are taken within the legal framework to return our citizens to their homeland," Gruby said. "The pressure on the court was one of the reasons for the guilty verdict," the consul added.
The consul declined to say directly whether prisoner swap was discussed. "I initially did not use this term [exchange - TASS], because I consider it completely inappropriate here, since it does not exist in legal terms," Gruby said.
Lawyers of the detained Russians said on Monday they plan to lodge an appeal against the sentence announced by the Kiev court.
Oksana Sokolovskaya, the lawyer for Yerofeyev, said: "We will appeal the verdict, that’s for 90% or more," she said.
The lawyer for Aleksandrov, Valentin Rybin, said the defense team has not yet received the verdict. "We will speak about the appeal after we get the verdict, study it and also consider the prospects of appealing it."
"Three of six charges have been confirmed by the court’s sentence and the other three have not been confirmed," he added
The Russians should not be considered convicted as the sentence comes into force only in 30 days, Rybin said. Now both men will be in a pre-trial detention center.
Kiev’s Goloseyevsky District Court has found Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov guilty of several counts, including terrorism, and sentenced them to 14 years in jail with confiscation of their property.
Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev were captured by Ukraine’s forces on May 16, 2015, in the Lugansk region, in eastern Ukraine. Kiev claims the detainees are Russian servicemen. However, the Russian Defense Ministry said the Russians "were not active servicemen of Russia’s Armed Forces at the moment of their detention."
Both men say they are not guilty on any of the charges. According to their lawyers, Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev should be considered prisoners of war as both of them were members of the people’s militia of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) when they were detained.