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MOSCOW, May 25. /TASS/. Western leaders on Wednesday welcomed the pardon of former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko as a move that may give positive impulses to the process of implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday said Savchenko’s pardon and return to Ukraine is "good news that we have been waiting for and that we have been working on so long."
Steinmeier expressed the hope that today’s events "contributed to establishment of trust between Ukraine and Russia and may thus give positive impulses to the Minsk process."
"I am glad and feel relief that Nadezhda Savchenko has been released and may return to her family in Ukraine," the minister said.
Earlier Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the request of relatives of killed VGTRK journalists, signed a decree to pardon Savchenko, who was taken to Kiev by plane.
The Donetsk City Court in Russia’s southern Rostov Region ruled on March 22 to find former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko guilty of directing the pro-Kiev forces’ artillery fire in southeast Ukraine that had killed Russian journalists. She was found guilty of killing Russia’s VGTRK Media Group journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin and illegally crossing the Russian border.
She was sentenced to 22 years in a general-security penal colony and a fine of 30,000 rubles ($440). The Savchenko trial began on September 22, 2015.
As the court said in its verdict, Savchenko had "the skills of military training and experience in military actions in Iraq" and "made her own choice while on a holiday to participate in the armed conflict in Ukraine’s southeast and came to the Aidar battalion under commander Sergey Melnichuk, which was located in the town of Schastye in the Lugansk region."
As Savchenko said earlier, she didn’t recognize the court’s verdict but wouldn’t appeal it.
In response to Russia's pardon of Savchenko, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko on Wednesday signed a decree to pardon Russian nationals Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov, convicted in Ukraine, and they have already arrived in Moscow.
A communique of the Elysee Palace said Wednesday France also hailed the news of Savchenko’s pardon.
"It’s a significant gesture for implementation of the Minsk Agreements," the French presidential administration said.
The president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Pedro Agramunt, welcomed the return of Savchenko to Ukraine.
Agramunt said Savchenko is expected soon in Strasbourg, even at PACE’s next session in June should her health permit her.
He expressed the hope that today’s pardon will make it possible for Moscow and Kiev to continue constructive cooperation and added that it could mark the opportunity to achieve new progress in implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
In 2014, Savchenko was elected a deputy of Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, Verkhovna Rada. In that capacity she is Ukraine’s delegate in PACE.
The director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Link, also welcomed Savchenko’s pardon, just as Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the pardon of Savchenko.
"Happy to see Nadiya Savchenko is free at last and safely home. Good news for her family and for Ukraine!" Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement distributed by the Department of State that he welcomes the news that Savchenko returned home and the decision of the Ukrainian government to free two Russian nationals.