Twenty two years was the prison term handed down to Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko by a Russian court on Tuesday.
The sentence comes after she was found guilty of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists during the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Prosecutors said she had directed the mortar fire that killed the men.
Defence lawyers said phone records proved she had already been captured by pro-Russian rebels when that attack took place in June 2014.
Judge Leonid Stepanenko dismissed her lawyers’ arguments that she could not have been involved in killing the journalists: “The evidence provided by the prosecution side is trustworthy and completely disproves the theory of the defence about Savchenko’s innocence.”
Savchenko’s reaction to the sentence was to start singing a Ukrainian folk song.
Her supporters in court then sang the Ukrainian national anthem before security staff bundled them out of the room.
Prisoner swap possible
In Kyiv, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko denounced the proceedings: “Ukraine will never – I repeat, never – recognise either the kangaroo court, or the so-called sentencing. I have raised the issue of the liberation of Nadiya Savchenko and other Ukrainian hostages many times. President Putin has stated that after the so-called court ruling they will return Nadiya Savchenko to Ukraine. Now is the right time to fulfil that promise.”
Poroshenko added he would be prepared to swap two Russian servicemen held in Ukraine for Savchenko.
Russian officials have previously signalled they would be willing to consider a prisoner exchange, but on Tuesday a Kremlin spokesman has said only Russia’s President Vladimir Putin can decide on that.
Savchenko has repeatedly gone on hunger strike, and says she is the victim of a show trial aimed at humiliating Ukraine.
Savchenko had taken leave from her job as a military pilot to volunteer with Ukraine’s ground forces fighting against the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
She was elected to Ukraine’s parliament while awaiting trial.
The United States and the European Union have called on Russia to release her, along with a number of other countries. Those calls were repeated after the guilty verdict and sentence.
MFA (@Latvian_MFA) 22 de março de 2016
Farse & mockery – that is what the trial of Nadya Savchenko is. #FreeSavchenko— Dalia Grybauskaitė (@Grybauskaite_LT) 21 de março de 2016
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