Sunday, March 13, 2016

Latvia calls on Russia to release Nadiya Savchenko

The Latvian Foreign Ministry has called on Russia to immediately release Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian Air Force pilot imprisoned in Russia. It also called on Russia to observe its international commitments and the Minsk agreement, which calls for the release of all political prisoners and persons who have been illegally detained. The LETA news agency was informed by the Russian Foreign Ministry, that a verdict in the show trial against Savchenko in Russia's Rostov region will be announced today, where she is accused of murder of two Russian journalists. The Latvian Foreign Ministry once again strongly condemns the illegal kidnapping and detention of Savchenko, and says her trial is based on unfounded accusations. The ministry calls on Russia to immediately release her. Savchenko was captured by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine in June 2014. She was handed over to Russia, where she was charged with the murder of two Russian journalists. Savchenko pleads not guilty to the charges leveled against her. The Baltic Times

Savchenko trial: Ukraine pilot ends hunger strike  By Stephen Ennis

Ukrainian officer Nadiya Savchenko, who is on trial in Russia over the killing of two journalists, has ended a hunger strike that she began last Friday. She is consuming liquid nutrients, called Nutrison, and drinking water. She had vowed to refuse food and drink pending the verdict. An aide said she changed her mind after a plea by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Ms Savchenko is accused of directing mortar fire that killed the journalists in Ukraine in 2014, a claim she denies. An aide to Ms Savchenko, speaking to the BBC's Sarah Rainsford outside the prison in Novocherkassk, southern Russia, said she ended the hunger strike and drank two litres of water on Thursday. But one of her lawyers, Mark Feygin, said he was misled about a letter that he handed to Ms Savchenko, which it turned out was not from President Poroshenko. "Thank God Nadiya has stopped her dry hunger strike. Pleas from Petro Poroshenko and everyone who supported her impacted her decision!" another of her lawyers, Nikolay Polozov, said on Twitter. A dry hunger strike is when someone refuses both food and water. The prosecutors have asked for a 23-year prison term, and a verdict in the case is due to be delivered on 21 and 22 March. Western politicians have urged Russia to release her, and the US envoy to the UN described the trial as "farcical". More than 4,300 people, including Nobel prize-winner Svitlana Aleksievich, have signed an open letter urging European leaders to act to secure her freedom. However, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said negotiations on any decision concerning Ms Savchenko would not happen until after the court's verdict. Ms Savchenko, 34, who is also a member of the Ukrainian parliament, was captured two years ago while fighting pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. A pioneering female combat pilot in the Ukrainian air force, where she held the rank of lieutenant, she had enlisted in a volunteer infantry unit, the Aidar Battalion. She is charged with acting as an artillery spotter and directing the bombardment of a rebel checkpoint, in which two Russian state TV journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, were killed. Ms Savchenko says she was kidnapped by rebel fighters at least an hour before the attack in which the Russian journalists were killed, and later handed over to the Russian authorities. Russian prosecutors say she secretly crossed into Russian territory herself. Relations between Russia and Ukraine - along with its Western allies - have deteriorated since the events of 2014 in Ukraine. Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula that March after an unrecognised referendum on self-determination, and is accused of covertly supporting the rebels in the bloody conflict which later divided eastern Ukraine. Among her supporters is the well-known journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov, who recently tweeted (in Russian): "In this selfish and base era, Savchenko has shown herself today to be a model of true, beautiful and unexampled heroism." BBC News Photo Wikipedia