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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: May 25, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Putin Claims Pardon of Savchenko 'Dictated by Considerations of Humanism,' But Needed GRU Agents
6 years
Russian GRU Agents Fly to Moscow; Greeted by Wives at Vnukovo Airport; Only State Press Allowed to Cover

President Vladimir Putin pardoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko today, claiming his action was "dictated by considerations of humanism," Novoye Vremya reported, citing Interfax (read our live updates here).

As Interfax Ukraine reported, Putin said he was moved to make the pardon of Savchenko, whose release has been vigorously advocated by Ukrainians as well as Western governments and human rights groups, by a request from the widows of the journalists (translation by The Interpreter):

"I would like to express the hope that such decisions, dictated above all by considerations of humanism, will lead to a reduction of the conflict in the well-known zone of conflict and will help avoid such horrible and unnecessary losses."

The "the well-known zone of conflict" that Putin couldn't name is Ukraine, where he has not acknowledged that Russian tanks and troops are waging war. And he did not mention what may have been his real motive -- obtaining the return to Russia of two GRU agents captured by Ukraine, Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev.

The presence of the two GRU officers has been a constant reminder of the Russian army's actual involvement in Ukraine, denied by the Kremlin, which has maintained that only "volunteers" are fighting in the Donbass.

Aleksandrov stated to a Russian reporter, Pavel Kanygin, last year that he was "on active duty" as a contract worker soldier.

Putin said on March 23, the relatives of Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, a reporter and sound engineer from state TV killed July 8, 2014, requested that he pardon Savchenko.

"I want to thank you for that position," Putin was quoted as saying.

Putin's choice of the term "dictated" might have better been used about his own authorization of jailing Savchenko in the first place, although there was no evidence that she had committed the crime she was charged with -- spotting for Ukrainian armed forces who bombed a Russian-backed checkpoint at which two Russian state journalists were killed.

Her defense was able to show that she was captured and was being interrogated by fighters of the self-declared "Lugansk People's Republic" even before the two journalists were killed.

As we reported, the two reporters were not wearing protective gear and were exposed at the checkpoint -- a legitimate target in war -- when a shell landed that did not detonate immediately. The Russian Union of Journalists urged government media to require mandatory bullet-proof vests and helmets after the deaths.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick