by Olena Goncharova
Nadia Savchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker and envoy to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has been extra-judiciously detained in Russia for an additional six months.
Held hostage since July, the former Ukrainian air force pilot had an inquest extended until mid-November by a Moscow court on May 5.
The U.S. State Department called the jail extension “callous and outrageous.”
America and Ukraine believe she should’ve been released after the September and February peace agreements that were sealed in Minsk, Belarus to halt hostilities in the Donbas.
They cite article six of the latest deal: “To ensure the release and exchange of hostages and illegally detained persons based on the principle of ‘all for all.’”
Speaking at a briefing in Washington, D.C. on May 5, State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke said that “we call on Russia to release Nadia Savchenko and all other Ukrainian hostages immediately, a commitment Russia made when it signed the Minsk agreements in September of last year and again on February 12th of this year when it signed the Minsk implementation plan.”
Earlier, the European Parliament at its plenary session in Strasbourg on April 30 adopted a resolution condemning Russia for illegally holding Savchenko in detention and warned it of possible international sanctions.
Moscow authorities maintain Savchenko is guilty of killing two Russian journalists in June 2014 while serving in the Aidar Batallion in Luhansk Oblast. According to their version, she had subsequently crossed into Russia illegally while posing as a war refugee in July.
Elected to the Verkhovna Rada in October, Savchcenko has denied the accusations. Kremlin-backed separatists took her captive and illegally transported her from Ukraine to Russia where she was taken into custody beyond the authority of the court, according to the Ukrainian PACE delegate.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry was outraged by the Moscow court ruling in a statement released on May 5. It said it was “yet another sign of the lack of any evidence in support for the absurd and groundless accusations against Nadia.”
A Moscow district court on May 6 is hearing her appeal on the decision to extend her arrest and whether to allow her to attend a PACE session scheduled in June.
Nikolay Polozov, one of Savchenko’s lawyers, said in his Twitter post that the ultimate goal of the Russian authorities is not to “investigate the case, but break Nadia’s spirit, to break spirit of Ukraine.”
Alex Ryabchyn, a lawmaker from Batkivshyna party tweeted from Moscow that Savchenko was already brought to the court and the hearing had started 50 minutes later than scheduled.
The pilot from Kyiv has been weakened by a continuous hunger strike over the winter and has developed a number of related illnesses, her lawyers say. On April 28, she was transferred to a Moscow city civilian hospital because of her deteriorating health. Days later she was brought back to her prison cell.
In the meantime, another attorney Savchenko’s, Mark Feigin called on activists to support her and take part in a global FreeSavchenko rally on May 11. She will turn 34 that day.