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Pilots of Russian plane released in Tajikistan

November 23, 2011, 13:04 UTC+3

On Tuesday, Tajikistan released Russia’s pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and his Estonian colleague Alexei Rudenko

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MOSCOW, November 23 (Itar-Tass World Service) - On Tuesday, Tajikistan released Russia’s pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and his Estonian colleague Alexei Rudenko, who had been sentenced to eight and a half years’ imprisonment. The court approved the appeal and changed the earlier sentence for accusation of counterfeit and illegal crossing the border. By having fought for the rights of Russia’s citizens, the Kremlin has demonstrated that should there be a desire, Russia is quite capable of supporting firmly its people.

Under Russia’s tough pressure, Tajikistan managed to find a compromise and to free in the court the pilots of the Rolkan Investments Ltd. aviation company – Russia’s Vladimir Sadovnichy and Estonia’s Alexei Rudenko, who had made an emergency landing in Kurgan-Tube, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. However, lawyers appeal for discharge did not happen. The court did not reverse the judgment regarding the illegal crossing of the border, violation of aviation transportation norms, and import of counterfeit, but lowered the punishment from 8.5 to 2.5 years and released the pilots under amnesty. Under the court decisions, the pilots lost the right to control planes for a term of four years.

This abrupt change of the court verdict, even though made under pressure of Russia, which coincidentally started mass deportation of Tajikistan’s illegal migrants, only confirmed suspicions in politicised court hearings, the newspaper writes.

“Revision of the sentence has become a compromising variant to settle the conflict, which could case for Tajikistan a diplomatic war and unpopular economic sanctions,” the newspaper quotes political scientist Sergei Markov as saying. “The compromise allowed Tajikistan’s legal system to keep its image. I am sure it is not correct to demand they kneel.”

Nevertheless, Moscow has taken the liberation of the pilots as Russia’s diplomatic victory, the Kommersant writes. “It was not easy also because the entire story got into media and reached the public field – especially on the eve of the elections. But in the long run, we have managed, and this is the most important thing,” a source at Russia’s foreign ministry told the newspaper. “We hoped that Dushanbe will follow immediately a constructive position and will release the pilots, but they would not,” the source said. Dushanbe’s stubborn position was explained by the fact that the case of Sadovnichy and Rudenko might have been a revenge for the sentence to Rustam Khukumov, a relative of President Rakhmon, who had been sentenced for drug trade back in 2009.

Chairman of Russia’s Public Chamber Anatoly Kucherena, who was involved actively in the case, told the newspaper that everything had finished positively only “thanks to the position of not indifferent people, who expressed support for Vladimir Sadovnichy.” Thus, the information reached Russia’s president, who promised to give to Tajikistan “a symmetrical or dissymmetrical answer.” It did not take long to see what this answer was. The Federal Migration Service /FMS/ announced real hunting for Tajik illegal migrants threatening them with deportation. Anyway, officially Moscow disproved categorically any connection between the country-wide roundup for the illegal migrants from Tajikistan and the case of Sadovnichy.

The defendant of Sadovnichy and Rudenko, Gulom Boboyev said that he was expecting not only releasing of his clients from the court room, but their complete justification – because, as he said, “they are not guilty,” the Novye Izvestia writes. But it seemed he was quite satisfied with the decision of the court. “Let me repeat once again, that the case does not have any political background,” he chose to tell reporters, just to be on the safe side, but most reporters, of course, did not believe him.

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