13:41 Apr. 17, 2016
Ilya Novikov says prisoner swap deal depends on Russian soldiers' verdict
The heath condition of Nadiya Savchenko, Ukrainian pilot illegally convicted and imprisoned in Russia, is critical. One of Savchenko's lawyers Ilya Novikov says she is "at the breaking point."
"If Nadiya's sister Vira had not persuaded her yesterday to take infusions, her state would be extremely serious. She is at the breaking point, she is exhausted," Novikov added.
The lawyer said there are "more or less reasonable ground to believe she will hold on for several days until we have a better understanding of the possible swap."
"We will see a clear picture after the results of the trial of Russian Special Forces servicemen Aleksandrov and Yerofeev on Monday (April 18). If after the trial Ukrainian and Russian diplomats indicate they have agreed to the terms of exchange, it means we are on the homestretch. If not, [it means] we are in a gridlock again and have to find new ways to influence Russia's authorities," Novikov explained.
He noted, "if it suddenly appears that the Russian party is not ready for the swap, it will indicate they are just trying to buy time."
Last month, Nadiya Savchenko was sentenced by a Russian court to spend 22 years in prison for being involved in the deaths of two Russian journalists in the Donbas warzone in 2014 and for illegally crossing the Ukrainian-Russian border. Savchenko denies the charges. Human rights organizations, the OSCE, some UN Security Council members and the European Parliament have all called for her release.
On April 6, when the verdict came into force, the pilot resumed her full hunger strike – without food and water. Her health keeps deteriorating since then.
Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeniy Yerofeev, two Russian Special Forces servicemen, were captured in the Luhansk region in May 2015. They have been accused of several crimes. Among the charges is murder of a Ukrainian soldier, creating a terrorist group and waging aggressive war against the country.
The prosecutors demand 15 years in prison for them. However, the servicemen could be exchanged for Ukrainians held by the Kremlin. In a recent statement President Poroshenko said he was ready to transfer the soldiers to Russia in return for the release of Nadiya Savchenko. Their final verdict is expected to be announced on April 18.