A Russian court has sentenced Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko to 22 years in jail after finding her guilty of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists during the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country would never recognise the verdict of what he called a “kangaroo court” and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Savchenko back home to Ukraine.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has subsided since a fragile ceasefire was agreed, but Savchenko’s trial showed the depth of bitterness that remains.
Savchenko, 34, is a national hero in Ukraine but many in Russia see her as a Ukrainian nationalist with the blood of civilians on her hands.
The sentence is likely to prompt protests from the European Union, which has called for Savchenko’s release.
Savchenko, who was elected a member of the Ukrainian parliament while awaiting trial, was defiant as the verdict was read out.
She climbed onto a bench and sang the Ukrainian national anthem at the top of her voice.
Savchenko, who wore a T-shirt bearing the Ukrainian trident, a state symbol, has denied having anything to do with the deaths of the journalists.
Mr Poroshenko said after the verdict: “Ukraine will never — I repeat, never — recognise either the kangaroo court of Nadezhda Savchenko, nor its so-called sentencing”.
He said Mr Putin had promised him some months ago that he would return Savchenko to Ukraine once the trial was over.
“The time has come to fulfil that promise,” Mr Poroshenko said in a statement.
“In turn, I am prepared to hand over to Russia the two Russian servicemen captured on our territory for taking part in armed aggression against Ukraine.”
Russian officials have previously signalled they would be willing to consider a prisoner exchange.
Only Mr Putin can decide whether Russia will trade Savchenko with Kiev, the Interfax news agency quoted Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, as saying.