KIEV, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin says in televised comments that he has decided to pardon Ukrainian pilot Nadezda Savchenko, who has become the national rallying cause in Ukraine.

Putin was shown on national television on Wednesday meeting two young women described as relatives of the two Russian journalists who were killed in a mortar attack in eastern Ukraine in June 2014. Savchenko was sentenced to 22 years in prison by Russia for the involvement in that attack.

Putin says he made the decision to release Savchenko after the relatives of the killed journalists petitioned him to show mercy to Savchenko.

Russia on Wednesday released Savchenko as part of a swap for two Russian servicemen jailed in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Putin’s spokesman confirmed that the plane carrying Savchenko from Rostov-on-Don had landed Wednesday at Kiev’s Borispol Airport.

Savchenko was swapped for two Russian servicemen imprisoned in Ukraine, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev. Russian state television showed them arriving at a Moscow airport on Wednesday.

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