A Ukrainian pilot jailed after being found guilty of complicity in the murder of two journalists has been freed after a prison swap deal with Russia.
Moscow agreed to pardon and release Nadiya Savchenko in return for two Russian prisoners held by Ukraine, according to sources cited by Reuters.
Ms Savchenko, 34, flew back on the plane of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko before appearing alongside him at a press conference in Kiev.
Shortly after landing he tweeted: “A presidential plane with Ukraine’s hero Nadiya Savchenko has landed.”
The 35-year-old, who had been on hunger strike for periods during her imprisonment, emerged from Kiev airport – barefoot and wearing a T-shirt – to cheering supporters.
She said: “Huge thanks for fighting for me. I thank everyone who wished me well. Thanks to you I survived. To those who wished me ill, I survived despite you.”
She said she wanted to “ask forgiveness” from the mothers whose children had been killed or captured during the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists, adding: “I’m always ready to put my life on the battlefield for Ukraine one more time.
“And I’ll do all I can for each child who is now in captivity to become free.”
Ms Savchenko has been imprisoned in Russia since June 2014 when she was captured by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine while fighting as a volunteer against them.
She accused the rebels of kidnapping her and taking her across the border to Russia where she was jailed and charged as an accessory to murder.
Russian authorities said that she gave the Ukrainian army the co-ordinates for the attack that killed the Russian journalists and several civilians.
Her case has been condemned as a show-trial in the West.
In March this year she sang and shouted at the judge as she was jailed for 22 years.
In return for her release, Ukraine has freed Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov.
Several Western governments had been demanding Ms Savchenko’s release, and the move is likely to ease tensions between Moscow and the West.
The European Union is set to decide whether to extend sanctions within a few weeks.
Mr Poroshenko is set to make a statement later on Wednesday.