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U.S. Urges Release of Ukrainian Political Prisoners


Nadiya Savchenko's detention and trial demonstrate disregard of rule of law.

“The charges against Ukrainian citizens held for politically-motivated reasons should be dismissed, and in the case of those being held within Russia, they should be allowed to return to Ukraine."

For months, the government of Russia has been conducting a trial of Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who was kidnapped by Russia-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine in June 2014 and brought across the border to Russia against her will. Russian authorities claim she was complicit in the deaths of two Russian journalists, a charge Ms. Savchenko vehemently denies.

In a statement issued March 8, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called the charges against Ms. Savchenko “trumped-up” and her imprisonment “unlawful.” He noted that “she has become a symbol of Ukrainian national pride and strength,” who “was even elected to the Rada from her prison cell.”

Nadiya Savchenko’s detention and trial demonstrate disregard of the rule of law. As Secretary of State John Kerry noted in a separate statement, “In the 20 months since she was captured in eastern Ukraine and taken to Russia, Ms. Savchenko has reportedly endured interrogations, solitary confinement, and forced “’psychiatric evaluation.’”

Both Secretary Kerry and Vice President Biden voiced deep concern over Ms. Savchenko’s health and welfare. Since March 4, they noted, she has refused food and water to protest her continued imprisonment by the Russian Federation.

Both officials repeated U.S. calls on Russia to immediately release Ms. Savchenko and return her to Ukraine. As Vice President Biden said, “Nadiya deserves to go home to her family and friends and join her fellow Rada members to begin shaping a new Ukraine.”

Daniel Baer, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also condemned the detention by Russia of Nadiya Savchenko, as well as the detentions of Oleg Sentsov, Oleksander Kolchenko, Stanislav Klikh, Mykola Karpyuk, Ahktem Chiygoz “and all other Ukrainians unjustly held in Russia, separatist-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine, and in Russia-occupied Crimea.”

He noted that human rights groups estimate there are currently at least 20 such cases.

“The charges against Ukrainian citizens held for politically-motivated reasons should be dismissed,” said Ambassador Baer, “and in the case of those being held within Russia, they should be allowed to return to Ukraine. By failing to do so, Russia continues to contravene its OSCE commitments, as well as its commitments under the Minsk agreements.”

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