Ukraine finds Russian 'soldiers' guilty of waging war

Yevgeny Yerofeyev (L) and Alexander Alexandrov sit in court in Kiev Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The court found Yerofeyev (left) and Alexandrov guilty of waging an "aggressive war"

A Ukrainian court has convicted two alleged Russian special forces soldiers of crimes including terrorism and sentenced them to 14 years in jail.

The pair - Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov - were captured in eastern Ukraine last May.

Russia denies sending troops to the region and has said the men were volunteers who had left active service.

A fragile ceasefire is in place in eastern Ukraine between the army and pro-Russian rebels.

The court in Kiev found Yerofeyev and Alexandrov guilty of waging an "aggressive war" against Ukraine, committing a terrorist act and using weapons to provoke an armed conflict, the Interfax news agency reported.

The two men had denied the charges. Moscow said it would do everything in its power to bring them home, Russian state media reported.

In the run up to the trial, the lawyer for one of the men was found dead. Yuriy Hrabovsky had been kidnapped and brutally beaten.

Prisoner swap?

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed swapping the two Russians for Nadiya Savchenko, convicted by a Russian court last month on charges relating to the deaths of two Russian journalists.

A pilot by training, she was captured by separatists in 2015 and accused of directing artillery fire that killed the journalists.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The men could be swapped for Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian woman jailed in Russia

Her trial was widely condemned and her lawyers have said her condition has deteriorated after she started a hunger strike in protest against her treatment.

During a televised appearance last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the government in Moscow was in contact with the Ukrainian leadership over the issue.