23:41 GMT08 July 2020
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    Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree pardoning Nadezhda Savchenko, who was sent to Kiev, Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.

    Relatives of the murdered journalists requested that Vladimir Putin pardon Nadezhda Savchenko as a humane gesture, Peskov added. President Putin, in turn, thanked the slain journalists' relatives for their request for clemency.

    "Before the pardon was signed, Vladimir Putin met with the relatives of our killed journalists. In turn, this meeting was preceded by the request from the relatives sent on March 22 and 23 where they asked to pardon [Savchenko] on humanitarian grounds," Peskov said.

    The Russian president said he hopes his decision to pardon Savchenko as a humane gesture will help in easing the confrontation in East Ukraine.

    "I just want to thank you for this position, and I hope that such decisions are dictated by humane considerations which will lead to a reduction of hostilities in that well-known conflict zone, and will help to prevent others from experiencing such terrible and unnecessary loss," Putin said.

    Savchenko was sentenced in late March to a 22-year jail term in Russia for her part in killing Russian journalists in Donbass. On June 17, 2014, a court ruled that she had directed the artillery fire at a group of Lugansk militia and Russian journalists, which lead to deaths of Russian journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.

    Two Russians, Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov were also transferred from a Ukrainian jail, where they were serving 14 years for terrorism-related charges, and landed in Moscow.

    "The transfer of Nadezhda Savchenko to Ukraine and Russians Alexandrov and Yerofeyev to Russia has been completed. This happened on the basis of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, ratified by Russia and Ukraine," Russian Upper House Speaker Valentina Matvienko confirmed earlier on Wednesday.

    "This is not a prisoner swap," she added.

    The Elysee Palace said in a statement that the release of Ukrainian national Nadezhda Savchenko was agreed upon during the Monday's Normandy Four leaders' phone talk.

    "The Republic's president [Francois Hollande] welcomes the exchange of prisoners, which occurred today, in accordance with the commitments made during a telephone conversation in Normandy format on May 23. This allowed, in particular, to return helicopter pilot Nadezhda Savchenko to the Ukrainian territory," the statement reads.

    According to Hollande, the freeing is an important step for the Minsk agreements implementation.

    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said that Berlin hopes that freeing Ukrainian Nadezhda Savchenko from her 22-year prison term in Russia will help in building trust between Moscow and Kiev.

    “I hope and wish that the successful exchange today will help in building trust between Russia and Ukraine and may also give the Minsk process a positive impulse,” Steinmeier said.

    European Parliament President Martin Schulz welcomed on Wednesday the transfer of Nadezhda Savchenko for her part in killing Russian journalists in Donbass, to Ukraine.

    "We have been waiting for Nadiya #Savchenko freedom for a long time. A good signal and news today for her family, friends and whole #Ukraine," Schulz said via Twitter.


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    prisoners, pardon, Yevgeny Yerofeyev, Nadezhda Savchenko, Alexander Alexandrov, Ukraine, Russia
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