Nadiya Savchenko Guilty?

Nadiya Savchenko YouTube

The case against 34-year old Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko (Надія Савченко in Ukrainian) is one of confusion. Today, a judge in the case began reading the prosecution’s summary, a preliminary step before announcing a verdict. Russian legal experts say that a verdict is imminent.

Savchenko has been charged in the deaths of two Russian reporters with state owned VGTRK television who died while in the south-east of Ukraine where Russian rebels were fighting anti-terror units of the Ukrainian military. Russian prosecutors claim that she gave coordinates for mortar fire that allegedly killed the journalists.

On 17 June 2014 the two Russian journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, were killed while filming a battle in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. At the time of the battle the rebel combatants, and the journalists themselves, reported that there were mines along the road on which their unit was fighting.

Savchenko, a 10 year veteran, had previously served in Iraq and had joined the Aidar Battalion, a volunteer unit of Ukraine’s anti-terror mission. She was captured near the town of Schastya in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, a territory occupied by pro-Russian forces.

Two days after her capture, rebel forces released a video of her interrogation although the location was undisclosed. During that interview she was shown handcuffed to metal pipes. A day later, a member of the pro-Russian rebel government, Vladimir Gromov, assured reporters that Savchenko was being well treated. Several days later, on 22 June, reporters were told that she had been moved to the rebel held territory of Donetsk.

Nadiya Savchenko vk
Ukrainian language poster calls for Savchenko’s freedom.

Negotiations between the Ukrainian Government and rebel forces were unsuccessful and on 8 July there were reports that Savchenko had been moved across the border to a detention facility near Voronezh (Russia). While imprisoned in Voronezh, local authorities charged her with murder of the two Russian journalists, and with entering Russia illegally. The charges came despite Russian television (NTV channel) newscasts reporting that Savchenko had been captured in rebel territory, and was being turned over to prosecutors in Russia.

In spite of multiple reports on Russian television that she had been captured by Russian rebels, and held in occupied Ukraine while negotiations were held for her release, Russian authorities claim that somehow Savchenko slipped across the border and into Russia on her own initiative.

Once charged, she was moved from Voronezh to a prison near Moscow. Savchenko’s trial was much like other politically charged proceedings in Russian courts. Despite RF Constitutional guarantees, her defense lawyers were denied the opportunity to present evidence of her innocence, nor did the court allow her lawyers to question those involved in her capture.

Nadiya Savchenko by Alek Naza
Man in Saint Petersburg holds sign calling for Savchenko to be freed. Photo by Alek Naza.

International representatives from Ukraine, the USA, Canada, the UK, Poland, Austria, Romania, Spain, Latvia, Slovakia, Norway, France, Switzerland, Germany and Sweden were present in the courtroom as a sign of solidarity against her imprisonment.