Russian servicemen captured in Ukraine convicted of terror offences

The pair face sentences of 14 years, although they could be swapped for Ukranian pilot Nadiya Savchenko who was jailed by a Russian court last month

Natalia Zinets
Monday 18 April 2016 16:38
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 Yevgeny Yerofeyev, left, and Alexander Alexandrov, were arrested last May on terrorism charges related to the conflict in Ukraine
Yevgeny Yerofeyev, left, and Alexander Alexandrov, were arrested last May on terrorism charges related to the conflict in Ukraine

Two Russian servicemen captured in east Ukraine have been sentenced to 14 years in prison, having been convicted of terrorism and other offences

Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev had initially claimed that they were active Russian servicemen and said they were on a reconnaissance mission. Russia's Defence Ministry, however, said they had resigned from active duty and had travelled to Ukraine as volunteers..

A court in Kiev convicted Alexandrov and Yerofeyev of terrorism and “waging a war of aggression” and sentenced them to 14 years each. The pair denied the charges.

In March, during the run up to the trial, the lawyer for one of the two defendants - a man named Yuriy Grabovsky - was found dead.

Alexandrov and Yerofeyev - reported to be special forces officers - were taken prisoner last May by a volunteer Ukrainian battalion not far from the front line. The Ukrainian government said the two officers were wounded and taken captive in a skirmish in the area.

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Moscow has denied sending troops to Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting government troops since April 2014. At least 9,100 people have been killed in the conflict, which has left large swathes of Ukraine's industrial heartland in ruins.

Alexandrov and Yerofeyev appear unlikely to serve their full sentence, having both been named as possible candidates to be exchanged for Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, who was captured by separatist rebels last year and sentenced last month to 22 years in prison in Russia over her alleged role in the deaths of two Russian journalists. Savchenko denied any wrongdoing.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said last month that he would be willing to exchange Alexandrov and Yerofeyev for Savchenko. The Kremlin didn't reject the possibility, but said no decision would be made before Savchenko's verdict was to come into effect, which happened earlier this month.

The Interfax news agency quoted Yerofeyev's lawyer Oksana Sokolovska as saying that his client has yet to decide whether to file an appeal, while Alexandrov and his legal team are also thought to be considering an appeal.

Reuters; AP

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