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Kiev court starts reading out verdict to Russians detained in Donbass

April 18, 2016, 15:03 UTC+3 KIEV

The Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office demanded a 15-year prison term for the Russians

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Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Aleksandrov

Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Aleksandrov

© Maxim Pab/TASS

KIEV, April 18. /TASS/. Kiev’s Goloseyevsky District Court has started announcing its verdict for detained Russian nationals Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Aleksandrov, a TASS correspondent reported on Monday.

The court hearing is attended by the defendants’ lawyers Oksana Sokolovskaya and Valentin Rybin, Russia’s consul in Kiev Alexei Gruby, MPs Irina Lutsenko and Irina Gerashchenko. At least 50 journalists are covering the event.

On April 15, the prosecution announced the grounds for the accusations brought against Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov, saying, in particular, that they "committed a terrorist act and conducted an aggressive war on the territory of Ukraine."

The Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office demanded a 15-year prison term for the Russians with the confiscation of their property and a 3-year ban on holding any posts in military units.

The counsel for the defense said during the court debates that it considered the accusations as unfounded. The lawyers also said that criminal prosecution and conviction of the Russian nationals violated international laws as they should be considered as prisoners of war. Under the Geneva Convention ratified by Ukraine as well, Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov are combatants (prisoners of war). They may not be convicted and are subject to a POW exchange, the lawyers said.

Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev were captured by Ukraine’s forces on May 16, 2015, in the Lugansk region, in eastern Ukraine. They are accused of illegal border crossing, illegal possession of arms and involvement in terrorist activity.

Kiev claims the detainees 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."

Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev say they are not guilty on any of the charges. According to their lawyers, the two men should be considered prisoners of war as both of them were members of the people’s militia of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) when they were detained.

Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has said he is ready to swap Ukrainian ex-pilot Nadezhda Savchenko recently sentenced by a Russian court to 22 years in prison for the two Russians detained in Ukraine.

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