MOSCOW – Russia and Ukraine have exchanged four prisoners in a move coordinated by their governments. The swap follows last month's release of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko after two years in a Russian prison. Savchenko was swapped for two Russians convicted of fighting in eastern Ukraine. In Tuesday's exchange, Russia's President Vladimir Putin pardoned Gennady Afanasyev, who was convicted on charges of sabotage, and Yuri Soloshenko, convicted on espionage charges. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed them in Kiev after their return.
Ukraine has filed a lawsuit at the UN's top court accusing Russia of sponsoring "terrorism" and illicitly funding separatist rebel groups - charges Russia denies. Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, and fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine the following month between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces, a conflict in which close to 10,000 people have been killed. In the case announced on Tuesday by the International Court of Justice, Ukraine accused Russia of "intervening militarily in Ukraine, financing acts of terrorism and violating the human rights of millions of Ukraine's citizens". Ukraine further alleged that the takeover of Crimea "brazenly defied the UN Charter, seizing a part of Ukraine's sovereign territory by military force". Russia has repeatedly denied sending troops or military equipment to eastern Ukraine.