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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.
Col. Igor Strelkov of Donbass Infamy Denounces Exchange of Savchenko for 2 GRU Agents as 'Unequal' as They Are 'Nobodies for Russia'
6 years
Russian GRU Agents Fly to Moscow; Greeted by Wives at Vnukovo Airport; Only State Press Allowed to Cover
TV Rain Posts Stark Contrast Between Receptions at Home of Ukraine's Savchenko and Russia's GRU Officers

Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin), the former head of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" criticized the prisoner exchange of Ukrainian military officer Nadiya Savchenko for two GRU agents, Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, reported.

"On the whole, there is the impression that the [Russian government] is trying to cover or mask its lack of decisiveness by some petty agreements without resolving the main problem. The exchange is not equal from a moral point of view. I understand that our two military men had to be freed. However they [Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev] are nobodies for Russia, but Savchenko will be presented as a national heroine for Ukraine who fought against Russia, and Ukraine did not abandon her. They [the Ukrainian authorities] will get an additional stimulus from the fact that such people as Savchenko have been fruitful and multiplied in a much larger quantity."

Strelkov's admission that there wasn't any popular campaign for the release of these GRU agents in Russia, much less a drive to make them heroes fighting for Russia, was largely a function of the government's refusal to admit they were on active duty or even related to military intelligence.

Strelkov also pointed out that in his opinion, the Russian authorities renounced Aleksandrov and Yerofyev after they were taken as POWs. "That is, they demonstrated just the opposite from the Ukrainian government's attitude toward Savchenko," Gazeta reported him as saying. 

The Russian authorities did not comment or act upon the capture of the GRU agents at first, and only reluctantly began negotiating with Ukraine later. As Strelkov commented: 

"Accordingly, the dividends will be completely different. Ukraine is using the release of Savchenko to raise a wave of pseudo-patriotic, Ukrainian hysterics, but the [Russian] government cannot extract practically anything out of this."

Savchenko was accused falsely by the Russian government of involvement in the shelling of a Russian-backed separatist checkpoint at which 2 Russian state journalists were killed.

Putin's engineering of the request for clemency from the journalists' widows -- who have never been heard to make this plea before this date and whose meeting with Putin in March was kept secret until now -- seemed designed to keep maximum distance of the Kremlin from the exchange, portraying it as "humanitarian."

Valentina Matvienko, the conservative speaker of the Federation Council or upper chamber of parliament also sought to spin the exchange:

"This is not an exchange. Russia and Ukraine ratified the European Convention on Extradition of convicts for serving sentences in other countries. Such a rendition occurred -- just as a rendition of Savchenko to Ukraine was made, so a rendition on appeal from Russia of our two citizens was made."

Kremlin spokesmen and Russia state media continue to call the two GRU agents "Russian citizens" and deny that they were military men on active duty.

No journalist, even from the state media, has been allowed to get an interview with the two GRU soldiers since their release, and there's simply been a news blackout in Russia on where they will go next. 

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick