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Russia Refuses To Release Ukrainian Pilot


Nadiya Savchenko

Friends and family of Nadiya Savchenko are increasingly afraid that the Ukrainian pilot and parliamentarian imprisoned by Russia may not survive her detention.

Her first name means “hope,” but friends and family of Nadiya Savchenko are increasingly afraid that the Ukrainian pilot and parliamentarian imprisoned by Russia may not survive her detention.

A former military pilot, Ms. Savchenko was seized by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in June and forcibly taken into Russia. She has been accused of complicity in the killing of two Russian journalists, a charge she has rejected as absolutely false.

In October, while in prison, Ms. Savchenko was elected in absentia to Ukraine’s parliament, and named a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In December, she began a hunger strike to protest the conditions of her detention, and her health is in decline.

On February 25, an appeals court in Moscow refused to move up her trial date which had been set for May 13, and insisted she remain in pretrial custody. Her lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, reportedly said her condition is increasingly dangerous. “We are getting close to the point when there are just days left before she would no long be able to stand on her own feet, before she can no longer live,” he is quoted as saying.

In a written statement, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki voiced “deep concern” over the decision by the Russian court to continue Ms. Savchenko’s detention. Noting her months-long hunger strike, “to protest being held hostage by Russian authorities,” Ms. Psaki said, “the United States deplores her continued ill-treatment and is deeply concerned by reports of her deteriorating health.”

“By any standard, Russia’s detention and treatment of Ms. Savchenko is unacceptable,” said Spokesperson Psaki. “We call on Russia to honor its commitment under the September 2014 Minsk agreements and the February 15 implementation plan by immediately releasing Nadiya Savchenko and all other Ukrainian hostages.”

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