Pyatt: Russia must free Ukrainian captive pilot Savchenko
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt thinks the option to swap Ukrainian captive pilot and MP Nadia Savchenko for Russian citizens Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who are serving lengthy prison terms in the United States, is ridiculous.
"Savchenko and other hostages must be released," he said at public debates titled "The U.S. for Ukraine: Partner, Patron or Ally?" arranged by Institute of World Policy in Kyiv on Tuesday.
In his words, the swap option is ridiculous, as Savchenko has been held in remand in Russia illegally.
According to Pyatt, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's proposal to exchange Savchenko for two Russian GRU officers Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov was "generous" and "this is the end of the [swap] discussion."
As was reported earlier, an informed source told Interfax on Tuesday that Savchenko, who was sentenced in Russia to 22 years in prison on murder charges, might be exchanged for a group of Russian citizens, including Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko.
"Currently, consultations are underway, including through confidential channels, on the possibility of releasing Savchenko through a swap. The Russian side proposed a list of its citizens in exchange for whom it is ready to release the former Ukrainian soldier," one of the sources said.
Russia's list includes businessman Bout and pilot Yaroshenko, he said. "There are also Russians whose activity is usually not made public among them," the source said..
The source sees no serious obstacles to such an exchange, after Savchenko's sentence goes into effect. "Exchanges of one person for several [people] have taken place before. In the case of Savchenko, the issue is about a convict sentenced for a grave crime – the murder of Russian citizens. Those whom she may be exchanged for killed no one," the source said.
Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said a day before that a decision regarding a possible exchange of Savchenko has yet to be made. "So far, I can only tell you that no actions have been taken. Savchenko is a convict de facto and de jure. De jure, she has the possibility of filing an appeal, so we are waiting," Peskov said.
It was reported earlier that Savchenko was sentenced to 22 years in prison last week. The verdict has yet to go into effect. Savchenko banned her lawyers from appealing the verdict, so that not to delay a political solution that would enable her to return to Ukraine.
Bout was arrested in Bangkok on March 6, 2008. He was extradited to the U.S. in 2010, and sentenced to 25 years in prison, on the charges of conspiring to sell a large batch of arms to Columbia's FARC group.
Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2011, on the charges of conspiring to deliver a large batch of cocaine to the United States.