KIEV, April 15. /TASS/. The criminal prosecution and conviction of Russian citizens Alexander Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev detained in Ukraine last year is against the international rules as they should be considered as prisoners of war, lawyer Oksana Sokolovskaya told the Kiev court on Friday.
"Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov are prisoners of war. All their actions qualified as crimes - carrying out a terrorist act, waging an aggressive war, illegal crossing of the border and illegal possession of arms - were actions that they committed as part of a legal act of war. Such actions cannot be a subject of criminal proceedings," said Sokolovskaya, the lawyer for Yerofeyev.
Under the Geneva Convention ratified by Ukraine, Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov are combatants (prisoners of war), and they cannot be convicted and should be subject to a swap.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors demanded to sentence the two Russians to 15 years in prison for "carrying a terrorist act and waging an aggressive war on Ukraine’s territory" and also called to confiscate their property.
Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev pleaded not guilty to all the counts on Friday and stressed that they will retract their evidence saying it had been given under pressure and amid fears for their life.
Kiev claims the two Russians, who were captured by Ukraine’s forces in mid-May 2015, are Russian servicemen. However, the Russian Defense Ministry said the Russians "were not active servicemen of Russia’s Armed Forces at the moment of their detention."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said late last month that he was ready to swap the two Russians for convicted Ukrainian ex-pilot Nadezhda Savchenko as soon as their trials were over.
In late March, a court in southern Russia found Savchenko guilty of directing the pro-Kiev forces’ artillery fire in Ukraine's south-east that had killed Russian journalists. The judge also said she illegally crossed the Russian border. Savchenko denied any wrongdoing and didn’t recognize the Russian court’s verdict.