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KIEV, March 22. /TASS/. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday expressed a protest in connection with the verdict by the Donetsk City Court of the southern Russian Rostov Region, which sentenced former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko to 22 years in prison and a fine, finding her guilty of the murder of Russian journalists.
"The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine expresses a resolute and strong protest over the so-called ‘verdict’ of the so-called ‘Russian court’ to convict Ukrainian national, people’s deputy of Ukraine, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Nadezhda Savchenko to 22 years in prison," the ministry said in a statement.
Besides, the statement said, the ministry demands from the Russian side an immediate cancelation of the sentence, calling it "illegitimate, inhumane."
"We are also demanding the release of all illegally held nationals of Ukraine, who are political hostages and victims of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine," it said.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry also called on all members of the international community to publicly condemn the verdict and "intensify pressure upon the Russian Federation." It also claimed that the verdict to Savchenko is "irrefutable proof of failure by the Russian Federation to implement the Minsk Agreements."
Earlier Ukraine’s foreign minister in his Twitter called the verdict "painful but expected." "The verdict is not the end of the struggle. It’s the start of a new stage of the struggle," Pavel Klimkin said.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, in turn, said the verdict "will not break the strength of the Ukrainian spirit."
Savchenko has been found guilty of the murder of two Russian journalists in Ukraine’s Lugansk Region, an attempt to kill civilians as well as border violation.
The materials of her case had been separated from the general case on Ukrainian servicemen committing genocide and using banned means and methods of war.
According to investigators, during combat operations near the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on June 17, 2014, Savchenko, who was an officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, from the location of the Aidar battalion - a paramilitary group of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry - in the vicinity of the village of Metallist secretly adjusted artillery fire on a section of the Lugansk People’s Republic militia's roadblock with civilians, including three Russian journalists.
As a result, VGTRK journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin were killed.
Savchenko has not admitted her guilt, saying she had never killed unarmed people. However, she said she would not appeal the verdict.
The Donetsk city court of the Rostov Region on Tuesday, March 22 sentenced Savchenko to 22 years in a penal colony and a fine of 30,000 rubles ($450). She was found guilty of the murder of Kornelyuk and Voloshin, as well as an attempt to kill civilians and illegal crossing of the border with Russia.
The sentence takes effect in 10 days unless it is appealed.
Participants of the Contact Group on settlement of the situation in Donbass on February 12, 2015 signed in Minsk the Package of Measures on implementation of the Minsk Agreements, earlier agreed with members of the Normandy Four (Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine).
The document, dubbed "Minsk-2", envisions in particular pardon through enactment of a law forbidding persecution and punishment of people in relation to events in Donbass, cessation of fire, withdrawal of heavy armaments from the contact line.
It also stipulates start of dialogue on restoration of social and economic ties of Kiev and Donbass, as well as reform of the Ukrainian constitution aimed at decentralization and strengthening of the "special status of separate districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions".
Fighting between Ukrainian troops and local Donbass militias during Kiev’s punitive operation, underway since mid-April 2014, against the breakaway territories - the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics constituting parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, has left thousands dead and led to a humanitarian disaster in the area.