Russia's justice minister says Moscow is open to discussing handing over to Kiev a Ukrainian pilot charged with the murder of two journalists.

Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot who served in a volunteer battalion fighting alongside government troops against Russia-backed rebels, says she was kidnapped by Russians after she was captured by the rebels in June 2014. Russian prosecutors insist that Savchenko escaped from the rebels and was caught when she crossed the border into Russia.

Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov was quoted by Russian news agencies on Friday as saying that Savchenko's transfer to Ukraine "could be discussed" as soon as the verdict is in.

Senior officials in Ukraine and the West have been calling for her release, saying that Russia has effectively taken her hostage.