Moscow (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said the relatives of two Russian journalists killed in eastern Ukraine had asked him to pardon Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, convicted of complicity in their deaths.
Putin was shown meeting Yekaterina Kornelyuk and Marianna Voloshina, the widow and sister of two journalists killed in a mortar attack in June 2014, and thanking them for their request, in the first mention on state television of Wednesday's prisoner swap.
Savchenko was convicted over the killing of journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, two months after the start of the pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
She has maintained her innocence, saying that killing unarmed people goes against her principles.
Savchenko, who returned to Ukraine on Wednesday as two Russian prisoners were flown back to Moscow from Ukraine, had reportedly been refusing to ask Putin for clemency. It was not clear whether such a request was made in the end.
Putin said the widows had contacted him "with a request to pardon Savchenko" after a meeting with pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.
He said he hoped "such decisions dictated primarily by humanitarian considerations will lead to a lessening of confrontation in the well-known conflict zone and will help avoid such terrible and unecessary losses."
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "Putin "signed a decree pardoning Savchenko."