“One Ukrainian woman is worth two Russian men,” many commentators noted as they witnessed an obviously unsymmetrical comeback scene of Savchenko to Ukraine and Russian military intelligence officers Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev to Russia.
To Boryspil Airport near the Ukrainian capitol, the Ukrainian Savchenko was brought in by the country’s president Petro Poroshenko, where she has been long awaited by dozens of journalists and activists with handshakes, hugs, and flowers. However, Putin did not come to Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport to greet the freed Russian prisoners of war, and the access was granted only to the POWs’ wives and state channels’ journalists that were on a special closed list, as journalist Pavel Kanygin wrote on Facebook. Savchenko went on straight to making a speech targeting Poroshenko’s Administration, while Russian media weren’t even allowed to ask Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev any questions.
Putin’s „considerations of humanism”
President Vladimir Putin said the release of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was “dictated by considerations of humanism,” Novoye Vremya reported, citing Interfax. The request for pardon allegedly came from widows of Russian journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin who were killed in Donbas in 2014.
“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” (translation by The Interpreter).
In 2014, relatives of Kornelyuk and Voloshin appealed to the European Court on Human Rights requesting to find those guilty guilty of the deaths of the journalists. Now, as Russian Gazeta.ru reported, on recent Kremlin pictures they look “depressed.” Unlike the sister and mother of Nadiya Savchenko, families of the two Russian GRU [military intelligence – Ed.] officers weren’t granted a meeting with their President. Putin’s press secretary Dmitriy Peskov only said on Russia’s Ministry of Defense-run Zvezda channel, that “such meeting wasn’t in a schedule.”
“A slap in the face”
Russia’s Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko stated that the media attention around exchange was a “special operation in order to make a national hero out of Nadiya Savchenko,” TASS quoted. Matviyenko felt sorry for Ukraine where “people whose hands are covered with blood, fascist accomplices are made into heroes.”
The Russian patriotic community met the news about Savchenko with disbelief and outrage. A day before her release, Russia’s People’s Liberation Movement (Russian: NOD, “НОД“) representative Aleksei Shilchenko said in a comment to Gazeta.ru that it couldn’t be true: “It is impossible. You should need to check the sources informing about this. This is unacceptable!”
Member of the self-proclaimed “Parliament of Novorossiya” Yevgeniy Tinyanskiy told Gazeta.ru he took it as “shame and humiliation… like a slap in the face.” Former self-proclaimed defense minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” Igor Strelkov said the exchange was unequal from the “moral point of view,” since the weight of Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev in Russian society was incomparably lower than Savchenko’s in Ukraine.
“Shameful story finally ends”
Shortly before the exchange was confirmed, Russian opposition politician Aleksey Navalny wrote on Twitter he was hopeful that “everyone comes back home and this shameful story finally ends.”
Another Russian opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov wrote on Facebook that many calamities could have been avoided if only the exchange took place even half year ago.
“The lawyer wouldn’t have died in Ukraine, we wouldn’t have been ashamed in front of the whole world with the process against the [Ukrainian Verkhovna – Ed.] Rada and PACE deputy, there wouldn’t have been another split in the society around a propaganda made-up story,” he commented.
Eduard Limonov, Russian nationalist opposition politician and writer, stated about the “demonstration of Russia’s weakness” in a post on Live Journal. He wrote that Putin yielded to pressure of USA, France, Germany and “dying Ukraine” and predicted Putin will be condemned for it by the same people that applauded Crimea’s annexation. “The partners of the Normandy [negotiations] format achieved a decision on allocating OSCE police forces in Donbas… In the perspective, we will see colossal pressure regarding Crimea.”
Today Savchenko, tomorrow Crimea?
Russian social network VK.com is now full with hateful comments and memes. “Today you give away Savchenko, tomorrow Crimea?”, the public page called “Civil war in Ukraine (Crisis in Russia)” asks. “While you’re jumping, Donbas will wave good-bye to you…,” user Svetlana Svetlana commented on Rambler news.
“First we exchanged Savchenko, what next – Crimea? Huge minus to Putin and his team, I won’t vote for them any more,” VK user Saniok Veselyi commented at “The Republic of New Russia. The Great Rus” public group.
“In case Nadiya Savchenko becomes president of Ukraine, things will turn out ugly for the Kremlin. Russia won’t have a more desperate, harsh, and intransigent opponent ready to give its health and even life for her country… Ready to use all means to bring back Donbas,” VK user Aleksandr Saveliev wrote.
“Russia was put down, boldly and brusquely. Now they will try doing it more often,” user Aleksandr commented on Novorosinform.org. “It is a 100% fault of Russian president: he testified personally, with his signature, to weakness of his country and lack of justice in it. Well, America appreciated this adulation; Russians reassure in disrespect.”
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