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Ukraine’s foreign minister not ruling out possible swap deal for Ukrainian ex-pilot

September 07, 2015, 2:15 UTC+3 KIEV

He did not rule out a possible exchange of Nadezhda Savchenko and film director Oleg Sentsov kept in custody in Russia for the two Russians, detained in Donbass

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Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin

© AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

KIEV, September 6. /TASS/. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin said on Sunday he did not rule out a possible exchange of former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko and film director Oleg Sentsov kept in custody in Russia for the two Russians, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, detained in Donbass.

"I think we must do our best to free Nadezhda [Savchenko], Oleg [Sentsov] and other political prisoners. If it takes negotiations on exchange, we will undoubtedly look at this possibility," he said in an interview with Ukraine’s Fifth Channel.

He said such a swap would be possible only after Ukrainian courts issue legal verdicts in respect of the Russians.

Earlier, Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov said the issue of such exchange should be solved through diplomatic channels. "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.

In late August, the Ukrainian Security Service’s chief Vasily Gutsak said he did not rule out a possibility of such swap. But, he said, the further fate of the Russian citizens would be decided after a court verdict.

Russian citizens Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev were captured by Ukraine’s forces in mid-May in the Lugansk region, in eastern Ukraine. Kiev claimed the detainees allegedly were Russian servicemen. Russia’s defence 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 placed them under arrest. They will stand trial later in September.

Nadezhda Savchenko, from the notorious Aidar paramilitary group of Ukraine’s interior ministry, has been in custody in Russia since July 2014 on charges of complicity in the murder of two Russian journalists in Ukraine last year and illegal crossing of the Russian border. Russian investigators say that Savchenko, the gunner of a Mi-24 helicopter, joined the Aidar battalion during combat operations in the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine in June 2014. Noting the position of a filming crew of the Russian State Broadcasting Company and other civilians, she allegedly reported the data to mortar-equipped personnel who fired on the crew and the civilians. As a result, correspondent Igor Kornelyuk and sound engineer Anton Voloshin were killed on June 17, 2014. Savchenko keeps on denying her guilt.

Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was sentenced on August 25 by Russia’s North Caucasian District Military Court to 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks in Crimea. His accomplice, Alexander Kolchenko, was sentenced to a prison term of ten years.

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