Russian court sentences Ukrainian pilot to 22 years in prison

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Moscow, March 23 (IANS) A Russian court in the southern city of Donetsk has sentenced Ukrainian army pilot Nadezhda Savchenko to 22 years in prison after finding her guilty of complicity in killing two Russian journalists in 2014, RIA Novosti news agency reported Tuesday.

The 34-year-old Ukrainian female pilot will spend a total of 20 years and four months in a regular-security colony as she has been in custody for a year and eight month during the investigation and the trial, Xinhua cited RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

Savchenko may be eligible for a pardon not earlier than in 12 years, according to the court ruling.

The court has also fined her for 30,000 rubles ($443) for illegally crossing the Russian border.

The court withdrew the accusation of complicity in shelling Ukrainian civilians, saying this matter was outside the jurisdiction of the Russian court.

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Savchenko was accused of directing artillery fire during hostilities between Kiev government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine in June 2014, which resulted in the killing of two Russian reporters.

Savchenko, who is considered a national hero by many Ukrainians, has denied the charges and said she had been kidnapped in Ukraine and then handed over to Russian authorities.

The Kremlin has so far refused to yield to appeals of various leaders, including US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to release Savchenko.

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