Reuters International

Ukrainian servicewoman Nadiya Savchenko talks to the media upon her arrival at Boryspil International airport outside Kiev, Ukraine, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin has consistently expressed his willingness to improve ties with the European Union, the Kremlin said on Thursday, but the release of Ukrainian Nadiya Savchenko from a Russian jail is unlikely to make this task easier.

Savchenko's handover on Wednesday, in return for two Russian prisoners, had been demanded by the West and was cast as a humanitarian gesture by Putin a few weeks before the European Union decides whether to extend sanctions against Russia imposed over its support for rebels in east Ukraine.

"The return of our guys to Moscow and the pardoning of Savchenko and her return to Kiev can hardly be considered as something that is able to significantly change the current atmosphere, which of course we would like to see as more constructive," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists on Thursday.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Alexander Winning)

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