The sentence against a Russian pilot convicted on smuggling and other charges in Tajikistan should be reviewed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a Tajik court sentenced Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and his Estonian colleague, Alexei Rudenko, to eight and a half years in prison for smuggling and border violations. Moscow called the sentence “extremely severe and politically motivated.”
“Sergei Lavrov said we support an appeal filed by the lawyers of Sadovnichy and Rudenko and insist on a sentence review and the return of the Russian national to his homeland,” the Foreign Ministry said.
In a phone conversation with his Tajik counterpart Khamrokhon Zarifi, Lavrov expressed indignation at the sentence, saying there was no convincing evidence to substantiate the charges against the pilots.
The pilots were detained by Tajikistan's security service in March after landing at Kurgan-Tyube airfield with two aircraft, one of which was carrying a spare engine that the court described as a "smuggled engine."
The aircraft, operated by Rolkan Investments, had departed from Kabul, Afghanistan, where it had been carrying out humanitarian relief work, and was bound for Moscow. After entering Tajikistan's airspace it was ordered to return to Kabul by Tajik air traffic controllers. The pilots said they could not comply due to the lack of fuel and landed at Kurgan-Tyube instead.
Lavrov also said Tajikistan failed to notify Russia of Sadovnichy’s detention within four days, which he said was a gross violation of its international commitments.
Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the Russian parliament’s upper house, the Federation Council, did not rule out sanctions against Tajikistan.
“If our voice is not heard, Russia reserves the right to take appropriate measures,” she told journalists in St. Petersburg.