On May 25, Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was exchanged for two Russian special forces soldiers Evgeny Erofeev and Alexander Alexandrov. Two planes, one with Savchenko departed from Russia’s Rostov region, the other with the two Russians on board from Ukraine. Interestingly enough, both parties were received in very different ways.
Savchenko was met at Kyiv’s airport "Boryspil" by her mother and sister Vira, a spokesman for the president of Ukraine Svyatoslav Tsegolko, Vice-Speaker of Parliament, Iryna Gerashchenko, the leader of the "Fatherland Party” Yulia Tymoshenko, and of course, by a sea of journalists.
Different media organizations gathered at the airport at noon when first reports of Savchenko’s return appeared online.
Around 15:00 President Petro Poroshenko announced that Savchenko’s plane had landed. Only 30 minutes passed before the 35-year-old fighter pilot appeared before the public- barefoot and very emotional. She was immediately surrounded by a sea of journalists and cameramen. Immediately, Savchenko asked for her personal space to be respected.
"I have spent two years behind the bars! Please, respect my personal my space. I want you to hear me. I have been in jail for two years. I'm not used to people. I might be sharp. I'm free!" said Savchenko.
Accompanied by relatives and politicians, she went to the Presidential Administration, where she was awarded a golden medallion and given the title “Hero of Ukraine”.
Now, hundereds of miles to the east Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev were only met by a handful of people. Their wives and several reporters approved by the Kremlin.
"Only Russia Today, Channel One, and NTV were allowed to meet Alexandrov and Yerofeyev. In fact, they were not allowed to ask questions, just keep silence. Speaking about the only wives came to meet them. If someone else came to meet, the guards would ask “Who are you and what are you doing here, huh? You are not included into the list," said the journalist of "Novaya Gazeta" Pavlo Kanygin.
Russian Armed Forces commanders did not come to the airport, in fact they were touted as fighters of “people's militia” of Luhansk People’s Republic.
"The only reason why Nadia Savchenko was met by all Ukrainian and foreign media in "Boryspil," and Yerofeyev and Alexandrov in "Vnukovo" were met only by RT, Channel One and NTV, is that unlike Nadia, Russian soldiers cannot answer to a simple question about what were they doing there," wrote in his Facebook Ukrainian MP Mustafa Nayem.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that meeting ordinary Russians returning from abroad is not on Putin’s schedule.