From The Moscow Times:
President Vladimir Putin might like to trade convicted Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko for Russian nationals imprisoned in the United States, but such an exchange is not being considered by the White House.
The fact that the Kremlin is negotiating the exchange of Savchenko for two Russian nationals currently held in U.S. prisons was voiced by Interfax’s source Tuesday. The report was immediately denied by U.S. officials in Moscow and Kiev.
Spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow Will Stevens told the RBC news website on Tuesday that Washington was not even considering the exchange of Savchenko for Russian nationals imprisoned in the United States.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Jeffrey Payette called the offer “ridiculous,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The United States insists that Savchenko has been convicted illegally and should be released without any conditions — according to Minsk agreements.
The Kremlin’s maneuver to trade Savchenko was serious, foreign policy expert Vladimir Frolov told The Moscow Times on Tuesday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brought up the Kremlin’s interest in releasing Russian nationals from the United States during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Moscow last week.
“Kerry said Yaroshenko was convicted of involvement in drug trafficking. Neither Yaroshenko, nor [Viktor] Bout was engaged in such business, therefore, we are convinced that the sentences were absolutely disproportionate,” Lavrov said at a press conference last Thursday, following talks between Russia and the United States.
Read the rest there.
It is an unusual request, given the highly political nature of the arrest, imprisonment, and conviction of Nadiya Savchenko, to request two non-political criminals in exchange for a political one. Of course, as the article notes, this was an old Soviet technique – trade spies for dissidents. Perhaps the Russian Federation wishes to go back to those maneuverings.
If this report is true, which it may not be, then it is a complete reversal of President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov (as reported in one of my previous posts). From “she will serve her sentence, she is a criminal” to “we will trade for Russian criminals in the US” in less than a week is certainly something to note here.
And if this report is true, then we have no further progress than we did a week ago. In no way would the US support the trade of a drug and arms traffickers. If Savchenko is to be traded, it won’t be for those two. For one, Viktor Bout, who received 25 years in prison in 2011, was found guilty of selling weapons to terrorist organizations. Not exactly a light accusation.