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Russia Must Release Savchenko


Ukrainian military pilot Nadezhda Savchenko stands inside a defendants' cage as she attends a court hearing in Moscow, April 17, 2015.

The United States once again calls for Russia’s complete and immediate implementation of the Minsk agreements, including the return of Nadiya Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov, Oleksander Kolchenko and all unlawfully-detained persons.

This month marks one year since Nadiya Savchenko was abducted in eastern Ukraine and smuggled against her will into Russia -- one year of her being held “hostage” under illegal detention and one year of absolute heartache for her mother, her family and the people of Ukraine.

In a statement marking the one-year anniversary of Savchenko’s detention, Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said that "Nadiya has endured relentless interrogations, solitary confinement, and forced 'psychiatric evaluation.'" Recently, Russian courts extended her detention yet again, until September 30th. This continued imprisonment, said Ambassador Power, "is indefensible, illegal, and it flies in the face of Russia's commitments under the Minsk agreements." Under the Minsk II agreement, Russia must release all hostages and illegally-held persons.

Nadiya Savchenko, a member of the Supreme Council of Ukraine (also known as the Verkhovna Rada or Ukranian parliament) and a helicopter pilot in the Ukrainian military, was seized by Russia-backed separatists in 2014 before they transferred her to Russian custody, and was charged in connection with the deaths of two Russian journalists covering the conflict fomented by Russia in eastern Ukraine. Savchenko has held a lengthy hunger strike protesting her arrest and insists that the charges against her are fabricated. The United States remains deeply concerned about the state of Ms. Savchenko's health and the terms of her detention.

Civil Society groups believe that there are at least ten other Ukrainians being subjected to politically-motivated prosecution in Russia. Other individuals being held in Russia without due process include Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksander Kolchenko. They have been held in pre-trial detention for nearly a year since their arrest in Crimea on May 11, 2014. They were arrested on dubious charges of plotting terrorism.

Speaking at a hearing on April 8 in Moscow's Lefortovo District Court, Mr. Sentsov reportedly said that he could not agree with the decision to extend his custody since there had not been any evidence presented by the prosecution of his alleged participation in or organization of terrorist activities in Crimea.

The United States once again calls for Russia’s complete and immediate implementation of the Minsk agreements, including the return of Nadiya Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov, Oleksander Kolchenko and all unlawfully-detained persons. The U.S. further calls on Russia to withdraw all of its forces from Ukrainian territory and end its occupation of Crimea.

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