By Roland Oliphant, The Telegraph, July 8, 2015
Russian investigators have upgraded the charges against Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian helicopter pilot jailed in Russia, as her lawyers said they expected her trial to begin this summer.
Savchenko, 34, now stands accused of the murder of two Russian journalists, investigators in Moscow have said.
She was previously charged with complicity in the deaths of Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, two employees of Russia’s state owned VGTRK television holding who died while covering the war in Ukraine last year.
“They have toughened the charges — the prosecutors have changed their concept,” Ilya Novikov, one of Savchenko’s defence lawyers, said on Tuesday.
Savchenko, a lieutenant in the Ukrainian army and the country’s first female combat pilot, was captured by pro-Russian separatists while fighting alongside the Aidar volunteer battalion near the city of Luhansk on June 18 last year. Russian prosecutors say she subsequently voluntarily crossed the border and attempted to seek asylum in Russia, where she was arrested and charged with acting as a spotter for a mortar attack that killed Kornelyuk and Voloshin on the same day.
The new charges were announced as investigators moved to bring the case to trial after a year of pre-trial detention. Russia’s chief investigator said on Monday that the investigation had been completed and had been sent to prosecutors for confirmation of the indictment before submission to a court for consideration.
Vladimir Markin, the head of Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee, said Savchenko’s case had been made part of a broader criminal investigation into “acts of genocide and use of illegal weapons and methods of warfare by the Ukrainian armed forces.”
No date has yet been set for the trial, but Mark Feygin, another of Savchenko’s defence team, said on he believed prosecutors were under pressure from the Kremlin.
Savchenko maintains that she had nothing to do with the deaths of the journalists, was captured a full hour before the mortar strike that killed them, and that she was transported across the border against her will by Russian intelligence officers.
The case has made Savchenko a cause celebre in Ukraine, where she was elected as an MP in absentia at parliamentary elections in November.
In March Petro Poroshenko, the president, made her a Hero of Ukraine — the country’s highest honour.
Ukrainian pilot faces graver charges over deaths of Russian journalists, The Moscow Times, July 7, 2015
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