Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko looks out from a defendants' cage as she attends the verdict announcement at a court in the southern Russian town of Donetsk.

Sources close to the swap told newsmen that “Ukrainian servicewoman Nadiya Savchenko heads home on a plane from Russian captivity on Wednesday, after an exchange for two Russians detained in Ukraine”.

Handing over Savchenko, whose release has been demanded by Western government and who also has become a national hero in Ukraine would ease tensions between Moscow and the West a few weeks before the European Union decides whether to extend sanctions against Russia.

There was no official confirmation of the exchange, but the two sources close to the arrangements said it was already underway.

A plane was en route from Russia to Ukraine carrying Savchenko home, according to one of the sources. “They are coming back,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In parallel, the two Russians, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, were in the process of being returned to Russian soil”, the second source close to the swap said.

The spokesperson to the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that “the President was to make a statement later on Wednesday”.

Earlier, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Poroshenko himself had flown to Russia to collect Savchenko, but there was no confirmation of that in Kiev or Moscow.

REUTERS/OMOLAYO ALABI