KIEV, Ukraine (AA) – A Ukrainian military pilot and parliamentary deputy just released by Russia said Friday she was ready to serve as the nation’s president if her nation calls.
"I will do whatever I can for Ukraine as long as I live," said Nadia Savchenko, 35,who was kidnapped by separatist forces in June 2014 and returned to Ukraine Wednesday under a prisoner exchange with Russia. She had been serving 22 years for her alleged involvement in the death of two Russian journalists who were killed by mortar fire in Ukraine.
Current President Petro Poroshenko, elected in June 2014, still has three years left of his five-year term.
Asked whether she wanted to be president or not, Savchenko said, "Let us ask Ukrainians. If it is needed, ok I will be president," adding, "But I cannot say I want to be president, as I like flying."
In addition, she said she would begin her tenure in parliament next Tuesday and will work extensively on military issues.
In October 2014, Savchenko was elected to parliament from Ukraine's Fatherland Party in absentia.
In her remarks, Savchenko called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to leave Ukraine. "Leave all the countries you hold. Do not humiliate your people, do not make a fool out of Russians," she added.
Savchenko was exchanged for Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeev, Russian military intelligence officers who were arrested for attacking Ukrainian military units in May 2015.
Tensions have escalated since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and a pro-Russian separatist conflict began in eastern Ukraine.
More than 9,000 people have lost their lives due to the conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels since April 2014, according to the UN.
The UN General Assembly voted near-unanimously to proclaim the annexation illegal.