KIEV, May 25. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order on pardoning former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
Russian nationals Alexander Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev convicted in Kiev have been taken to Moscow.
The document published on the Kremlin’s website says: "Pardon convict Savchenko Nadezhda Victorovna, born on May 11, 1981 in Kiev, freeing her from further serving sentence in prison."
"Today a plane of Rossiya state transport company has taken to Moscow to the Vnukovo airport two Russian citizens - Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov who were in Kiev," Peskov said.
"Simultaneously, President Putin signed an order on pardoning Savchenko and she was taken to Kiev on a Ukrainian plane that arrived for her in Rostov," he added.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko confirmed a plane carrying former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko has landed in Kiev.
"A presidential plane with Ukraine's hero Nadiya Savchenko has landed," the president said on Twitter.
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, before pardoning Savchenko, Putin met in the morning with relatives of the VGTRK journalists killed at Lugansk.
Putin has thanked relatives of the killed VGTRK media Group journalists for their position on pardoning of Nadezhda Savchenko, saying he hoped it came out of humanitarian considerations.
"On March 23, we met with Viktor Medvedchuk (head of Ukrainian Choice civic movement) and after that meeting I was asked to pardon Savchenko, convicted by Russian court," Putin said while meeting with relatives of the killed Russian journalists.
"I won’t get back to this tragedy as a result of which you lost your next-of-kin, I only want to thank you for this position and express hope that such decisions are first of all prompted by humanitarian considerations, will reduce confrontation in the conflict zone and will help avoid such awful and unwanted losses," Putin said. "Thank you very much," the president said to Anton Voloshin’s sister and Igor Kornelyuk’s widow.
Putin is not planning to meet Alexandrov and Yerofeyev yet, Peskov said.
"I don’t know, such meetings are not planned so far," he said, answering a corresponding question.
Nadezhda Savchenko’s defense lawyers are satisfied that she was released and returned to Ukraine.
"It doesn’t matter how she was released, under Convention or by pardon. The main result is that she’s home," Savchenko’s lawyer Mark Feygin told TASS.
Russians Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev were met by their wives, Yekaterina and Yulia, on the airfield the moment they were off the ladder.
Yulia Yerofeyeva told TASS she had been very nervous about her husband’s plight but remained certain about a favorable outcome all the way.
"Of course, we were looking forward to their return. We felt very strained, but we never lost hope they’d get back home soon. We were certain they won’t be left in the lurch," said Yulia.
Both women recalled it was incredibly hard for them to carry on while their husbands were away in captivity.
"Since the day when Yevgeny volunteered to go to Donbass, I was beside myself with anxiety," said Yulia. "We kept fingers crossed for them all along," echoed Yekaterina.
Both women thanked all those who had been by their side throughout the months of waiting, uncertainty and anxiety.
Russians Alexandrov and Yerofeyev were detained by the Ukrainian military in May 2015 in the area of the Schastye settlement in the Lugansk region. Kiev said that they are allegedly Russian military servicemen and accused them of illegal border crossing, possession of arms and participation in a terrorist organization.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied the allegations, saying that the seized Russian citizens were not active servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces at the moment of their detention. Alexandrov and Yerofeyev pled not guilty to all the charges against them, and their lawyers said that their clients, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, should be regarded as prisoners of war, as at the moment of their detention they were members of the people’s militia of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR).
Nevertheless, a court in Kiev sentenced them to 14 years in prison with confiscation of property. The sentence took effect on May 23, 2016.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said earlier he was ready to swap both Russians for former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko convicted in Russia.
The Donetsk City Court in Russia’s southern Rostov Region ruled on March 22 to find former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko guilty of directing the pro-Kiev forces’ artillery fire in south-east Ukraine that had killed Russian journalists. She was found guilty of killing Russia’s VGTRK Media Group journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin and illegally crossing the Russian border. She was sentenced to 22 years in a general-security penal colony and a fine of 30,000 rubles ($440).