In Digest, Ukraine

Russian investigators say there are no grounds to release Nadezhda Savchenko despite claims by Ukraine’s president

By Olga Tanas, Bloomberg News, Feb 13 2015

MOSCOW — Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot held in a Moscow prison who says she was kidnapped by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, isn’t a prisoner of war or a hostage, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Nadiya Savechenko in a Russian courtroom Feb 10, 2015. T-shirt bears the Ukraine coat of arms. Photo by Pavel Golovkin, AP

Nadiya Savechenko in a Russian courtroom Feb 10, 2015. T-shirt bears the Ukraine coat of arms. Photo by Pavel Golovkin, AP

Savchenko, who has been on hunger strike for two months and whose release is demanded by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, isn’t being held illegally, Peskov told reporters outside Moscow on Friday. Investigators are working on the case against her, which will be for a court to judge, he said.

There’s proof of her involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists in the conflict zone and “no basis” to speculation about her imminent release, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement on its website on Friday.

Savchenko’s fate has become tied to the diplomatic push to end the conflict between government troops and separatists in Ukraine. Poroshenko said on Thursday that agreement was reached on her release after peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. The Kremlin said Savchenko was not discussed “in essence” in Minsk, RIA Novosti reported Friday, citing Peskov.

Savchenko, 33, is willing to end her hunger strike if she is released from custody and allowed “for example, to stay under house arrest at the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow,” Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Russian president’s human rights council, said on Friday after visiting her in prison, the Interfax news service reported.

She’s “not hoping for amnesty or pardon” and wants her case brought to court quickly so that she can prove her innocence, Fedotov said, according to Interfax. Russia has charged her with complicity in the deaths of the two reporters and a court in Moscow on Tuesday extended her pre-trial detention until May 13.

Savchenko, an officer in Ukraine’s army who served in Iraq, has become a symbol of heroism for many Ukrainians. She says she was abducted in eastern Ukraine by separatist rebels in June and taken across the border to Russia. The Investigative Committee said in July that she was detained after trying to enter Russia as a refugee.

Foreign ministers from 15 European Union states expressed solidarity on Monday with Savchenko, who was elected to Ukraine’s parliament in elections last October, by appearing in a group photo with signs saying “We call the Russian authorities to free illegally abducted Ukrainian pilot.”


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