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Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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“In the past 24 hours, as a result of combat operations, unfortunately, two Ukrainian servicemen were killed, and 8 of our fighters sustained injuries. Furthermore, 3 serviceman of the National Guard were wounded as a result of a blast from an explosive device.”
President Petro Poroshenko announced today that “180 National Guardsmen had given their lives for Ukraine’s “community, sovereignty and independence,” Unian reported. He said 948 National Guardsmen were awarded for their valor in battle.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
According to my information, his talks in particular concerning Nadezhda [Nadiya] Savchenko were successful. A date was publicly mentioned in the talks when the means by which she will return to Ukraine will be announced.
Savchenko was sentenced by a Russian court in Rostov on March 22 to 22 years of prison on charges of serving as an accomplice to the murder of two Russian state journalists who were killed by shelling at a Russian-backed separatist checkpoint. But her lawyers have presented evidence that she was already seized by forces of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” before the journalists were killed, and as The Interpreter has reported, the journalists were not wearing protective gear at a separatist checkpoint which was a legitimate target in war.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said today that Savchenko’s health had “sharply worsened,” Unian.net reported. Vitaly Moskalenko, consul general of Ukraine in Rostov, and Aleksandr Kovtun, vice consul, said that while Savchenko is coming off the dry hunger strike she declared to protest the delay in her sentencing, she is having trouble taking water or food because of severe nausea and allergies. Her legs have become very swollen.
Dmitry Kuleba, special envoy of the Foreign Ministry also said in an interview with TV Rain:
“I think that we can come to some specifics after the 10-day period for submission of an appeal passes. There will be no appeal, as we know, because Nadezhda has refused to make an appeal. The decision will enter into force. So many times we have been deceived in these expectations, therefore I can only express the strong hope that within a very brief span of time after the decision enters into force, Savchenko may return home. If everything will be normal, I think Savchenko will return this summer.”
Savchenko was handed a copy of her sentence from the [Russian] Donetsk City Court today and has 10 days now to appeal. A written Ukrainian translation was provided to her, the court press office announced.
On March 25, Sergei Ivanov, head of the Russian presidential administration “allowed the theoretical possibility of a trade” of Savchenko for Russians, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported. Ukrainian reporting on this statement (for example LB.ua) has dropped the word “theoretically.” Said Ivanov:
“Theoretically, such an exchange is possible: a) with complete adherence to the law of Russia; and b) only the president could make such a decision.”
He added that such a trade would not have anything to do with the Minsk agreement because Russia is “not a side in the conflict” although Western leaders have not accepted this fiction. Russia now has an explicit negotiator in the Trilateral Group talks, Boris Gryzlov, former speaker of the Russian parliament and a leader in the ruling United Russia party.
Ivanov didn’t indicate which Russian prisoners might be exchanged, but one possibility is two GRU officers, Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev, captured by Ukrainian forces near Shchastye last year and awaiting trial on charges of terrorism.
Tymoshenko said she would either be exchanged or returned to Ukraine under international law to serve her sentence in Ukraine. But then she stepped back a bit by saying:
“There are great chances. These chances were obtained by top-level world leaders. This is the president of the United States and the Federal Chancellor of Germany who convinced Putin to surrender Nadiya.”
“Regarding Savchenko, the situation is extremely simple for us and extremely clear: Savchenko is a convict, and going forward everything will occur in accordance with the law of the Russian Federation. She will serve her sentence. Other decisions may be taken only by the head of state. For now, there are no such decisions.”
Today in Moscow, picketers who protested the sentencing of Savchenko were arrested, OVDInfo, the police monitoring group reported.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick