Putin says in contact with Ukraine over swap for jailed pilot Savchenko

14th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Moscow is in contact with Kiev over a possible prisoner exchange for Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, jailed over the killing of two Russian journalists.

"We are in contact on this issue with the leadership of Ukraine," Putin told journalists after his annual televised phone-in.

"Our partners know what our position is. With some issues it is best not to get ahead of ourselves."

A Russian court last month found 34-year-old military helicopter navigator Savchenko guilty of involvement in the fatal shelling of two Russian state television reporters in east Ukraine and sentenced her to 22 years in prison.

Savchenko -- who maintains her innocence but refused to appeal -- started refusing all food and liquid last week to protest the official start of her sentence.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has offered to swap Savchenko -- who has become a national hero in Ukraine and has been elected to parliament in absentia -- for two alleged Russian soldiers captured fighting with pro-Moscow rebels in east Ukraine.

Russia denies the two men -- currently on trial in Kiev -- were serving army officers, insisting they had quit the military before heading to fight in Ukraine.

Savchenko's case has prompted condemnation from the European Union and Washington, which have called for her release.

© 2016 AFP

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