What chance has Nadiya Savchenko to come back to Ukraine?
Putin and Poroshenko discussed in a phone call the return to Ukraine of Nadiya Savchenko, who has recently been sentenced to 22 years. The obstacles, however, are not few. Including the Minsk peace agreements.
- Friday, 22 April 2016
Even before the two presidents talked on the phone, sources from the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine said a formal request for the return home of Nadiya was sent to Russia. And the Russian news agency Ria Novosti reported that the Russian Ministry of Justice would have no objection to considering the request.
But what seems like the beginning of the end of Nadiya’s nightmare is an obstacle-strewn path.
First it must be clear that, formally, it is not about a liberation but a transfer to serve his sentence in Ukraine. Nadiya Savchenko was sentenced to 22 years last March for complicity in the murder of two Russian journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, during a battle in the east of Ukraine in the summer of 2014. During his custody, Nadiya has been elected deputy of the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. And it is clear to everyone that, in fact, it would not be difficult to find ways to prevent her serve her sentence once back home.
The Strasbourg Convention
Ukraine's request comes just days after a court in Kiev sentenced to 14 years in prison for terrorism Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Evgeny Erofeev, two Russian soldiers captured in Donbass. It’s not by chance that talking about an exchange immediately started.
Things, however, are not so simple. And, paradoxically, the Minsk agreements could be an obstacle.
The request from the Ukrainian side is in fact based on the 1983 Strasbourg Convention "On the transfer of sentenced persons". As I said, this implies the condemned would serve his sentence in his country, in prison. Both Ukraine and Russia signed and ratified the Convention.
The procedure doesn’t require any exchange, as it was recently in the case of Eston Kohver, nor applies to prisoners of war. In addition, to proceed with the transfer, the fact has to be considered as a crime in the country of the sentenced person. This would mean to admit the guilt of Nadiya for a fact that the defense has always defined "invented." And, finally, an unspellable judgment is necessary. This means Nadiya lawyers shouldn’t appeal. Again, an admission of guilt. Two conditions that a proud soldier like Nadyia would hardly accept.
The Minsk agreements
At the same time it is hard to fit any exchange in the frame of the Minsk agreements. First because, again formally, nor Savchenko nor Aleksandrov and Erofeev are prisoners of war. According to the respective courts, they all are guilty of crimes under the Criminal Code. But above all because it is exactly on the exchange of prisoners that negotiations in Minsk have stalled. During one of the last meetings of the Trilateral Contact Group, the OSCE Representative Martin Sajdik, said that Savchenko issue was raised, but "unfortunately, no consensus on POW exchange has been reached”.
According to Novaya Gazeta, however, a big exchange of some seventy POWs from both sides is planned for May 9. And the lists are still open. Including Nadiya in this exchange – not impossible if there is the political will – would exclude even the obligation to serve the sentence in Ukraine. In short, she would be free.
But it would also have another effect (that Russia may not really be willing to accept), to pave the way for the release of dozens of (let’s call them political) prisoners still in the hands of the Russian justice. Like the director Oleg Sentsov and anti-fascist activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, imprisoned in the occupied Crimea and recently sentenced to 20 years for terrorism.
Provided someone wants to do it.