Russian Judge Begins to Deliver Verdict on Ukrainian Pilot Trial

The verdict is expected to be delivered by Tuesday, 22 March 2016.

2 min read
Ukrainian jailed military officer, Nadezhda Savchenko, as she sits in a glass cage during a trial in the town of Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia. (Photo: AP)

A Russian court on Monday began reading a verdict for Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, who is charged with complicity to murder two Russian journalists in war-torn eastern Ukraine.

The judge quoted arguments by prosecutors who said that Savchenko, who served in a volunteer Ukrainian battalion at the time, called in the coordinates for shelling that killed the two journalists and several civilians in July 2014. He also quoted them as saying she was driven by “political hatred” toward residents of Ukraine’s Luhansk region.

The judge in the trial quoted the prosecution saying that Savchenko was part of a “criminal group” and aimed to kill an “unlimited number of people.”

Prosecutors have asked for a 23-year prison sentence for Savchenko. Sentencing is expected on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters during a break on Monday, Savchenko’s lawyer Mark Feygin said the Ukrainian is determined to go on hunger strike and stop drinking water in 10 days’ time unless she is extradited to Ukraine.

Speculation persists that Moscow could agree to exchange her for two Russians captured in eastern Ukraine and alleged to be active-duty soldiers despite Russia’s persistent denial that it has sent troops or equipment to bolster the rebels.

Russian officials have insisted that they would not even discuss a possible prisoner swap before the verdict is in.

Savchenko, who often wears Ukrainian costume in the courtroom, has been openly contemptuous of the judge and prosecutors, denouncing them as “idiots” and raising her middle finger in defiance.

She went on an 83-day hunger strike while in detention, then began another this month when the court delayed the reading of the verdict.

The European Union and US President Barack Obama have called for Savchenko’s immediate release, but Russian officials had dismissed such calls as attempts to interfere with the country’s internal affairs.

Fighting between Russia-backed separatists and government troops in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 9,100 people and left the rebel-held areas isolated from the rest of Ukraine.

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