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Russia Says Received Ukraine's Query On Savchenko Repatriation

A combo photo of Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko (left) and Yevgeny Yerofeyev (center) and Aleksandr Aleksandrov, Russian servicemen arrested in May 2015 on terrorism charges related to the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine

The Russian Justice Ministry says Ukraine has requested documents required to repatriate Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko, whose imprisonment in Russia on murder charges has drawn international condemnation.

Russian news agencies on April 20 quoted the ministry's press office as saying that the Ukrainian Justice Ministry faxed a request the previous day asking for paperwork related to Savchenko's possible transfer to serve out her 22-year-sentence in Ukraine.

The ministry said a court would consider the issue of repatriating Savchenko if Ukraine submits a formal request with the required paperwork, Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Savchenko, 34, was sentenced on March 22 on charges that included complicity in the killing of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine in 2014, RIA Novosti reported.

She and her supporters say she was seized in eastern Ukraine in June 2014 while fighting with a volunteer battalion against Russia-backed separatists, and taken to Russia illegally.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on April 19 that Kyiv and Moscow had agreed on a possible framework to free Savchenko, who was elected in absentia to Ukraine's parliament in October 2014 and has become a national hero back home.

His comments came a day after a Ukrainian court sentenced two Russian citizens to 14 years in prison each on charges of fighting alongside Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Shortly after the sentencing of Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, the Kremlin said Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed by phone the "fate" of the two Russians and Savchenko.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, said that a prisoner exchange involving Aleksandrov, Yerofeyev, Savchenko, and other Ukrainians serving sentences in Russia was possible.

"I don't exclude that such an exchange for Savchenko and other Ukrainian citizens could take place," Matviyenko told reporters in Moscow on April 20. "Political will is necessary for this, and Russia has this will."

Poroshenko's office said later in the day that the Ukrainian president had discussed efforts to free Savchenko with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in an April 20 telephone call.

With reporting by TASS, Interfax, RIA Novosti, Reuters, and AP
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