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Poroshenko Says Sister Of Jailed Ukrainian Pilot Savchenko Is Back In Ukraine

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Vira Savchenko is now reportedly back in Ukraine.

Vira Savchenko is now reportedly back in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says the sister of jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko, Vira Savchenko, has returned to Ukraine after she was prevented from leaving Russia at the end of a visit related to her sister's case.

Vira Savchenko was reportedly stopped and detained by Russian border guards who seized her passport as she was returning to Ukraine in a Ukrainian diplomatic car on April 27.

Poroshenko wrote on Twitter on April 28: "[Ukraine's] consul-general just informed me that Vira Savchenko has crossed the Ukrainian border and is now in [her] homeland."

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's representative to the Council of Europe, said earlier on April 28 that the younger Savchenko was taken to the Ukrainian Consulate in Rostov-on-Don after Ukraine's consul-general secured her release.

Kuleba said Vitaly Moskalenko, Ukraine's consul-general in Rostov-on-Don, negotiated Vira Savchenko's release after "a heated debate with the Russians." Moskalenko was sent to the border by Kyiv to aid Vira Savchenko.

Vira Savchenko's passport had been returned to her, Kuleba added.

Nadia Savchenko, 34, is a national hero in Ukraine and is viewed as a symbol of resistance against Russia, which forcibly annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backs separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.

Vira Savchenko's detention came hours after a defense lawyer for her sister, whose case has outraged Ukrainians since she claims to have been abducted in eastern Ukraine and smuggled to Russia in mid-2014, said Nadia Savchenko had received official forms needed for her extradition to Ukraine.

Kuleba confirmed that "Vira has indeed been put on a [Russian] federal wanted list for insulting a judge in Chechnya."

Earlier, the office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the border guards told Vira Savchenko that she was on the wanted list.

Russia launched a criminal case against Vira Savchenko in November, accusing her of showing "disrespect" toward a Russian judge, whom she called a "schmuck."

Speculation has swirled of a possible prisoner swap for Nadia Savchenko since two Russian soldiers were convicted on April 18 on charges of fighting alongside Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine.

Nadia Savchenko was said to have abandoned a hunger strike after the Ukrainian verdicts against the Russians, who Kyiv says were active Russian soldiers.

Then, President Poroshenko said after a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on April 24 that she could be home "in a few weeks" after "a formula" was agreed for a prisoner swap. Her lawyers have cited a similar time frame.

Nadia Savchenko was sentenced by a Russian court to 22 years in jail on March 22 after she was found guilty of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists during fighting by Russia-backed separatists against Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.

She denies the charge and says she was abducted and illegally brought to Russia.

With reporting by Interfax, Reuters, and AP