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Procedure to extradite Ukraine's Savchenko from Russia launched - RIA

Former Ukrainian army pilot Nadezhda Savchenko gestures from inside a glass-walled cage during a verdict hearing at a court in the southern border town of Donetsk in Rostov region, Russia, March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A procedure to extradite jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko from Russia has begun, RIA news agency quoted her lawyer as saying on Wednesday.

A Russian court sentenced Savchenko to 22 years in jail on March 22 after finding her guilty of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists during the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. She denied any involvement.

The lawyer, Mark Feygin, said the process could take one to two months, RIA reported.

“I have received Savchenko’s statement agreeing to be extradited to serve her term in Ukraine ... I believe that the procedure has started,” RIA quoted Feygin as saying.

The lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

Savchenko, 34, is regarded in her homeland as a national hero and symbol of resistance to Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014 after a Moscow-backed president was toppled during street protests in Kiev. Russia has also backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

But many in Russia see Savchenko as a Ukrainian nationalist with the blood of civilians on her hands. She was captured by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine in June 2014 at the height of fighting there between Ukrainian forces and the separatists.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed a framework for a deal to secure the release of Savchenko from prison.

The sentencing of two captured Russian servicemen in Ukraine earlier this month has fuelled speculation that they might be swapped for Savchenko.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Gareth Jones