2016-03-03 18:50:00

Russia seeks jail sentence for Ukraine's army pilot-turned-'Freedom Fighter'

(Vatican Radio) A Ukrainian army helicopter pilot accused of involvement in killing two Russian journalists was due to make her final address in a Russian court, after prosecutor demanded a 23-year prison term. 

Lawyers said Nadia Savchenko is innocent and claimed the case was politically motivated.  

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Ahead of her final address to a court in the Russian city of Donetsk, 34-year-old Savchenko already denied killing two Russian journalists. And her last speech was expected to be characteristically defiant and highly political. 

Savchenko openly accuses prosecutors of lying and regularly declares "Glory to Ukraine" to family and supporters in court. She often wears traditional Ukrainian dress during court appearances and back in Ukraine has become a symbol of resistance to Russia.

Savchenko has stressed that she did not direct artillery fire from a Ukrainian volunteer battalion at the Russian journalists in June 2014. 


The pilot, who was even elected to Ukraine's Parliament while being jailed, also accused Russian-backed separatists of kidnapping her.

She claims she was taking into Russia where she was jailed and charged. 

But Russia says she crossed the border illegally, posing as a refugee, before being detained. Her defence team argues that she had already been captured by pro-Russian rebels at that point and so is innocent.

Kiev agrees, saying the charges against her are trumped up and that she should be treated as a prisoner of war.


Savchenko has been refusing food while on trial in Russia. She has threatened to go on full hunger strike – including a refusal to drink -- unless she is returned to Ukraine soon. "If the court takes more than two weeks to carry out the sentence, which is already known, tomorrow I will start a dry hunger strike," she added. 

"I know justice will work for for me posthumously. I do not think I should wait for any exchange. You won't be able to solve this case with political methods. For getting back two Russian felons for one innocent person is too much," she told the court while speaking from a cage.      

However lawyers say the case is political and warn that a guilty verdict is inevitable.

Their final arguments come after the prosecution said Wednesday it is seeking a 23-year prison sentence. The prosecution stressed it had proven Savchenko's guilt "beyond doubt" during the five-month trial in Donetsk. 

The trial has underscored mounting tensions between Kiev and Moscow over the conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists that has killed more than 9,000 people. 


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