Ukrainian pilot given 22-year sentence; international community calls on Russia to release her
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he is ready to hand over two Russian soldiers in exchange for pilot Nadiya Savchenko.
The 34-year-old has been sentenced to 22 years in prison by a Russian court.
She is charged with complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists and of crossing the Russian border illegally. Poroshenko calls her trial a kangaroo court.
Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, saying in televised address: "Ukraine will never - I repeat, never - recognise either the kangaroo court (of Nadiya Savchenko), nor the so-called sentencing...I have raised the issue of the liberation of Nadiya Savchenko and other Ukrainian hostages many times. President Putin has stated that after the so-called court ruling they will return Nadiya Savchenko to Ukraine. Now is the right time to fulfill this promise. I, in return, am ready to hand to Russia two Russian servicemen arrested on our soil for their participation for armed aggression against Ukraine."
As her verdict was being read out, Savchenko remained as defiant as ever. She sang a Ukrainian folk song, forcing officials to call for a five-minute break.
For the duration of her case her legal team have said the charges are fabricated and a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion. They expect to gain her release through diplomatic channels.
Savchenko's lawyer, Mark Feygin: "Savchenko will not serve this sentence. I can guarantee this. As a result of the outrage which will be expressed today by heads of states and international organisations Savchenko will be free. I have no doub t about that. I cannot tell you when she will be released. Whether it will happen tomorrow or the day after, but it will happen."
Savchenko's case dates back to June 17th 2014. That's the day she was abducted by Kremlin-backed separatist forces and forcibly taken across the border to Russia. This footage was shot just one week later. It shows the first official interrogation of Savchenko on Russian territory.
After that, her arrest was extended numerous times. In response the 34-year-old carried out several hunger strikes and is now pledging to go on a dry hunger strike in the wake of a verdict being reached.
Meanwhile, international pressure on Russia to release Savchenko continues to mount. Her plight has been highlighted by rallies and protests across Europe and North America, with E.U. and U.S. officials leading calls for her to be freed.