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Russians detained in Donbass sentenced to 14 and 13 years in jail in Ukraine

The prosecution demanded a 15-year prison term for Russian nationals Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Aleksandrov
Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Aleksandrov AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov
Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Aleksandrov
© AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov

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

"The court comes to a conclusion that there is enough evidence of the committed crimes," the judge said. One of the counts is "terrorism."

The court rejected some evidence of the defense team saying it is insufficient and sentenced Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov to 14 and 13 years in jail, respectively, with confiscation of their property.

The prosecution had earlier demanded a 15-year prison term for them. The Russians are accused of "having committed a terrorist act and conducting an aggressive war on the territory of Ukraine."

"The term begins from April 18, 2016, including stay in pre-trial detention from March 16, 2015 until April 17, 2016 counting one day for two," the verdict says. The Russians can appeal the verdict within 30 days.

The court hearing was 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.

Sokolovskaya, the lawyer for Yerofeyev, told the 112 Ukraine TV channel earlier in the day the verdict would be guilty taking into account that the case was politically motivated. She also did not rule out that the defense team would appeal against the verdict.

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 Petro 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.