Russian court sentences Ukrainian pilot to 22 years
Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko was sentenced Tuesday by a Russian court to 22 years in prison for complicity to murder in the 2014 deaths of two Russian journalists and several civilians, Russian state media reported.
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko afterward offered to exchange two Russian prisoners being held in his country for the return of Savchenko. The Kremlin said the decision will be up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby called the conviction and sentence "a blatant disregard for the principles of justice" and urged that she be released.
"For nearly two years, Russia has unjustly detained Savchenko on charges that have no basis in fact and has denied her the basic protections of the rule of law. She has reportedly endured interrogation, solitary confinement, and forced 'psychiatric evaluation,'” Kirby said.
At the sentencing, the judge said Savchenko — Ukraine's first female military pilot — will also have to pay a fine for crossing into Russia illegally. Her sentence will start from the date of detention, June 23, 2014, Russia's TASS news agency reported.
Savchenko, 34, denies the charges and maintains that the case against her is politically motivated. She admits volunteering to fight Russian separatists in Ukraine's east but says she was kidnapped by rebels and handed over to Moscow.