16 Feb 2018 16:21

Kyiv preparing to swap Ukrainians Sentsov, Sushchenko for Russians Baranov, Odintsov - media

KYIV. Feb 16 (Interfax) - Ukrainian citizens Roman Sushchenko and Oleh Sentsov, who are in prison in Russia, could be swapped for former Ukrainian servicemen who became Russian citizens after the events in Crimea, Alexander Baranov and Maxim Odintsov, convicted by a Ukrainian court for treason and defection, the office of the Verkhovna Rada's Human Rights Commissioner, Valeria Lutkovska, said.

"Ukraine is preparing for the exchange of political prisoners Sentsov and Sushchenko for Crimean defectors Baranov and Odintsov, who were sentenced for 13 and 14 years of imprisonment, respectively, in Ukraine," the Ukrainian ombudsman's office said on the television channel Priamyi on Friday.

On February 6, Kyiv's Darnitskiy District Court rendered a judgment to Odintsov and sentenced him to imprisonment for 14 years. Kyiv's Podilskyi District Court sentenced Baranov to 13 years of imprisonment two days later.

Baranov and Odintsov pleaded not guilty during the trial.

The former servicemen's defense team is preparing to appeal the judgment, Valentyn Rybin, the convicts' lawyer said. "I believe it is too early to talk about the execution of the punishment. Until the judgments take effect, they will either be appealed or there will be other legal procedures, which are being discussed by the parties," the lawyer said.

Alexander Baranov and Maxim Odintsov went to serve in the Russian army in 2014. On November 20, 2016, they were detained by officers of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) near the Chonhar crossing point on the border with Crimea.

On November 22, 2016, Mykolaiv's Central District Court ordered that the two men, who had been accused of defecting, be taken into custody as a pretrial restrictive measure. They were told on the same day that they were also suspected of high treason.

On December 8, 2016, the Investigative Committee charged two Ukrainian citizens in absentia with abetting the abduction of Russian servicemen.

As reported, in August 2015, the Northern Caucasus District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced Sentsov, who had been detained in Crimea in 2014, to 20 years in a maximum-security penal colony. The Ukrainian filmmaker was found guilty of creating a terrorist community on the peninsula. The Russian Supreme Court later upheld the sentence. The Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly described the Sentsov case as politically motivated.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported the detention of Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko "during an act of espionage" in Moscow on October 3, 2016. Sushchenko was charged with espionage. He denies any wrongdoing. Moscow's Lefortovsky District Court has prolonged Sushchenko's arrest until March 30, 2018.