The contrast between the hero's welcome Nadia Savchenko received in Kyiv and the subdued reception the two Russian intelligence officers exchanged for her got in Moscow was revealing.
Ukrainians are justifiably proud of Savchenko, a military pilot who was captured defending her country -- and who was defiant in captivity.
The Kremlin, on the other hand, would prefer to forget about Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov, the GRU operatives who were caught illegally fomenting an armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
It's also pretty revealing that Vladimir Putin stuck to the Kremlin's big lie, even after releasing his hostage.
Putin made a point of saying that he made the decision to pardon Savchenko after being asked to do so by relatives of two journalists she was absurdly accused of helping kill.
As everybody paying attention to this case knows, the two Russian journalists in question were killed by mortar fire in eastern Ukraine after Savchenko was already in captivity.
But never mind. If you repeat a lie enough times, plenty of gullible people will believe it.
Meanwhile, the real motive for releasing Savchenko probably lies elsewhere.
Her release came just days after Putin held a conference call with European leaders -- and just weeks before the EU will decide whether or not to extend sanctions against Russia for its intervention in the Donbas.
In recent weeks, the signals coming out of Brussels indicated that sanctions would most likely be extended.
If that tone changes in the coming weeks, and if sanctions are not extended when European leaders meet next month, it would probably indicate that some kind of deal was cut.
And that would send an unmistakable signal to the Putin regime: hostage taking pays.
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