Putin Tells Obama Not to 'Meddle' in Savchenko Case

Obama and Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama attend the World Climate Change Conference 2015. The two men did not agree on the fate of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko over the phone. Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected U.S. President Barack Obama's request that he free captured Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, a Kremlin spokesman told the Interfax news agency.

Savchenko is held in Russia under allegations of assisting in the killing of two Russian journalists, while fighting in Ukraine in 2014. Her verdict is due before March 22 and she faces a 23-year jail sentence if found guilty. Although a Russian judge has already said the pilot's guilt has been proven "beyond doubt" European and U.S. politicians have accused Russia of fabricating the charges for political reasons.

Ukrainians have held regular protests in front of Russia's Embassy and consulates in Ukraine in anticipation of the court's decision.

Associated Press reported on Wednesday that U.S. President Barack Obama had joined those asking for Putin to secure Savchenko's release.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the reports on Thursday, telling press that Putin had rebuffed Obama's request in a phone call.

"The (U.S.) president has been given multiple clarifications on this matter, as have other colleagues abroad on other levels of government, since we are speaking about a judicial procedure and any meddling outside the jurisdiction of our courts is unacceptable and impossible," he said.

"It is too early to make any assessments on this so until the end of the judicial process and the announcement of the verdict this is impossible," Peskov added.

Not only does Savchenko's lawyer deny that she is guilty of killing the two Russian journalists, he has also insisted his client was detained by pro-Russian rebels in her own country of Ukraine and illegally handed to the Russian authorities. He has claimed Savchenko was captured months before the deaths of the Russian journalists in June 2014.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared last month that he is open to a prisoner swap with Russia to bring Savchenko home, but added that Russia have not given any indication of agreeing to this.