Defiant

Nadiya Savchenko, Ukrainian war hero, freed by Russia in prisoner swap

Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko is surrounded by media upon her arrival at Kyiv Boryspil Airport on May 25, 2016 in Boryspil, Ukraine. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after her capture by the Russians in 2014, has been freed as part of prisoner swap with two men believed to be elite Russian soldiers. Savchenko had been sentenced to 22 years in jail for directing artillery strikes that killed two Russian journalists, a charge she denied, saying she was kidnapped by the Russians prior to the attack. She mounted a hunger strike while in jail, and her courageous defiance soon made her a hero in her home country. She was elected in absentia to Ukraine’s parliament, and to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Upon her return to Kiev, Savchenko, who wore a white t-shirt with Ukraine’s coat of arms emblazoned on the front and no shoes, was mobbed by news reporters. The 35-year-old immediately expressed a desire to return to the front lines, saying, “I am ready to once again give my life for Ukraine on the battlefield,” she told reporters at Kiev’s Boryspil airport. Later, at a joint conference with the Ukrainian president, she pledged to do everything she could to free all Ukrainian nationals still held by Russia. “Ukraine has the right to be, and it will be!” she proclaimed.

According to Ukrainian authorities, the two pardoned Russians were elite members of Russia’s military intelligence force who used weapons and “a terrorist act” to instigate conflict. Russia has maintained, however, that the men were not on active duty when they were captured in eastern Ukraine.

Read the full story at BBC News.

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