Russian court sentences Ukrainian pilot to 22 years

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A former Ukrainian pilot was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being convicted for allegedly taking part in the murder of two Russian journalists.

Nadezhda Savchenko burst into song and chanted “Glory to Ukraine!” upon hearing the verdict. Ukrainian spectators in the court, in the Russian town of Donetsk near the Ukraine border, joined Savchenko in her chant.

Nadezhda Savchenko. /Reuters
Nadezhda Savchenko. /Reuters

The judge dismissed all defense arguments and said he had no reason to doubt the testimony of the Russian separatist rebels who captured Savchenko.

Ukrainian officials said Savchenko should have been treated as a prisoner of war as she was captured in eastern Ukraine and turned over to Russian authorities.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko offered to exchange two Russians held in his country for the return of the 34-year-old Savchenko.

Poroshenko claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had assured him last year that “he will return Savchenko to Ukraine after the verdict.”

Although a military pilot, Savchenko was fighting in a Ukrainian volunteer battalion against Russia-backed rebels when she was captured by the separatists in June 2014. She surfaced in Russia less than a month later. Moscow said she escaped from the rebels and was captured after crossing the border on her own.