Wednesday 28 September 2016

Ukrainian pilot Savchenko denounces trial as a farce

Published 09/03/2016 | 13:41

Ukrainian Nadezhda Savchenko sits in a glass cage during a trial in Donetsk (AP)
Ukrainian Nadezhda Savchenko sits in a glass cage during a trial in Donetsk (AP)

A Ukrainian pilot charged over the deaths of two Russian journalists has denounced her trial as a farce.

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"In Russia, there are no courts and no investigations," Nadezhda Savchenko told the court in the Russian border town of Donetsk. "Here there is the farce of Kremlin puppets."

Addressing the court, she said: "If you want to show your strength, go ahead. But remember, we are playing with my life. The stakes are high and I have nothing to lose."

The trial judge said that he would announce his verdict on March 21 or 22 on her role in the deaths of the journalists in eastern Ukraine.

Prosecutors last week asked the court to convict Savchenko and sentence her to 23 years in prison.

Savchenko, 34, declared a hunger strike on Thursday last week and has a high fever, according to tweets from one of her lawyers, Nikolai Polozov.

Her mother and sister were both present at the trial, but a group of Ukrainian doctors were not allowed into Russia to see Savchenko, Mr Polozov wrote.

Savchenko was fighting with a Ukrainian volunteer battalion against Russia-backed rebels when she was captured in June 2014. Russia claims she was a spotter who called in coordinates for a mortar attack that killed the two journalists and several other civilians.

The Ukrainian government says Savchenko was abducted by the Russians and should be treated as a prisoner of war.

About 2,000 Ukrainians rallied in central Kiev on Sunday to demand that Russia release Savchenko, whose case has been taken up by supporters in other countries as well.

On Tuesday, US vice-president Joe Biden issued a statement saying she has been unjustly imprisoned and called on Russia to release her immediately.

Press Association

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