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MOSCOW, May 19. /TASS/. A Kremlin spokesman on Tuesday refused to comment on the possibility of exchanging former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko for "two Russian servicemen" allegedly detained in Ukraine.
"I can’t answer your question; measures are being taken via the Foreign Ministry," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists when asked to comment on such a possibility.
"I would not like to get so far ahead," Peskov said.
Deputy commander of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) People’s Militia Sergey Kozlov said May 17 that a sabotage and reconnaissance group of Ukrainian servicemen crossed the disengagement line between the Ukrainian army and LPR militiamen - the Seversky Donets River - on May 16 and attacked a watch post of an LPR People’s Militia detached reconnaissance battalion to the east of the city of Schastye.
"During ensuing fighting, two of our servicemen - Yerofeyev Yevgeny Vladimirovich and Alexandrov Alexander Anatolyevich - were wounded and taken prisoner by Ukrainian saboteurs. We assume they will be subjected to torture for the purpose of further provocations," Kozlov said.
The LPR leadership and the LPR People’s Militia command have established a group to hold talks on their exchange.
Kozlov called on the Ukrainian side to stop provocations and stick to the Minsk agreements.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry on Monday, May 18, said it hopes the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) shows prudence and frees former Russian servicemen detained by the SBU.
"Russian nationals Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, seized by the SBU in the Lugansk Region, were not active servicemen of Russia’s armed forces at the moment when they were detained on May 17," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.
Russia’s embassy in Kiev has demanded a meeting of consular staff with Alexandrov and Yerofeyev, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
"According to information in Ukrainian media citing Ukraine’s Security Service and Defense Ministry, on May 17 the Ukrainian army wounded and seized nationals of the Russian Federation Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev in the Luhansk Region," the ministry said. "The Ukrainian authorities said these were Russian servicemen."
"The Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation is known to have already reported that the above-mentioned citizens are not active servicemen of Russia’s armed forces," the statement said.
"The Russian embassy in Kiev has demanded a meeting of consular staff with the held nationals of the Russian Federation to render them required assistance in line with norms of international law," the ministry said.
Investigators say that during combat operations near the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk in the summer of 2014, Savchenko, who was a gunner for a Mil Mi-24 (NATO reporting name: Hind) helicopter gunship, joined the Aidar battalion - a paramilitary group of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.
She is suspected of involvement in the murder of two Russian journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, near Lugansk in July 2014, as well as of illegally crossing the Russian border. The two criminal cases against her have been integrated. She does not admit her guilt.
Situation around east Ukraine
On February 12, 2015, participants of the Contact Group on settlement of the situation in east Ukraine signed in Minsk a document earlier agreed with leaders of the Normandy Four (Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine).
The 13-point Package of Measures on implementation of the September 2014 Minsk agreements included cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as measures on long-term political settlement in Ukraine, in particular establishment of working subgroups.
Clashes between Ukrainian troops and local militias during Kiev’s military operation, conducted since mid-April 2014, to regain control over the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics and constitute parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, have left thousands dead.