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Russia’s justice minister not ruling out swap deal for ex-Ukrainian pilot

September 02, 2015, 14:47 UTC+3 MOSCOW

"As a rule, such issues are decided via diplomatic channels," Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov said

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© TASS/Mikhail Pochuev

MOSCOW, September 2. /TASS/. The issue of a possible swap of former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko for Russians detained in Donbas should be solved through diplomatic channels, Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov has told reporters.

"As a rule, such issues are decided via diplomatic channels," Konovalov said. He did not rule out that there is a judicial possibility for such a swap, adding that normally, such deals are based on the existing bilateral or conventional agreements.

Savchenko’s lawyer earlier said the former Ukrainian pilot, in Russian custody for over a year, could be exchanged for the two Russian citizens. The Savchenko case is currently being considered by a court in the town of Donetsk, south Russia’s Rostov Region.

Russians Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev were captured by Ukraine’s forces in mid-May in the Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine. Kiev claimed the detainees allegedly were Russian servicemen.

Russia’s Defense Ministry later said the Russians "were not active servicemen of Russia’s Armed Forces at the moment when they were detained on May 17."

On May 22, a Kiev court arrested them. On June 10, Kiev’s appeals court remanded Yerofeyev and Alexandrov in custody. On July 30, both were transferred from a hospital to a pretrial detention center.

Their trial is due in September. Earlier Yerofeyev’s lawyer Oxana Skolovskaya told TASS that the detainees could face the maximum possible punishment - a life sentence.

In late August, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service, Vasily Gritsak, did not rule out the possibility that Alexandrov and Yerofeyev could be exchanged. However, he said, their future will be decided only after a court verdict.

Savchenko case

Russian investigators say that Savchenko, the gunner of a Mi-24 helicopter, joined the notorious Aidar battalion during combat operations in the much-troubled Luhansk region of Ukraine in June 2014.

Upon noting the position of a filming crew of the Russian State Broadcasting Company and other civilians, the 33-year-old allegedly reported the data to mortar-equipped personnel who opened fire on the crew and the civilians. As a result, correspondent Igor Kornelyuk and sound engineer Anton Voloshin were killed.

The former pilot does not admit her guilt.

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