Tuesday 21 November 2017

Hunger strike Ukrainian pilot on trial in Russia agrees to drink water

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

A Ukrainian pilot on trial in Russia has agreed to take water but will continue a hunger strike following an appeal by Ukraine's president.

Nadezhda Savchenko, who served in a volunteer battalion against Russia-backed separatists and is accused of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists, went on hunger strike and refused to take water after a court hearing on Friday.

Rights advocates were concerned that Savchenko could die if she kept refusing water.

Mark Feygin, a lawyer for Savchenko, posted a letter from her saying that she will take water but keep up the hunger strike.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has pledged to do "all it takes" to exchange Savchenko for any Russian prisoner and bring her home.

Savchenko was captured by the separatists in July 2014.

She said the separatists handed her over to the Russians who took her across the border. Moscow claims that Savchenko escaped from the rebels and crossed the border on her own before she was arrested.

Top officials in Ukraine and elsewhere have been advocating for Savchenko's release and called her a prisoner of war.

Russian officials have refused to discuss the possibility of a prisoner exchange while Savchenko is waiting for a verdict, expected at the end of March.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said that the Kremlin "made a note" of Mr Poroshenko's statement as well as Savchenko's decision to take water but he refused to comment further.

Press Association

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