Ukraine’s Savchenko Given 22-Year Prison Sentence by Russian Court

ROSTOV-NA-DONU, Russia – A court in the small southern Russian town of Donetsk has sentenced Ukrainian POW Nadezhda Savchenko to 22 years in prison after convicting her of charges relating to the deaths of two Russian journalists.

When reading out his statements, the judge said Savchenko – a Ukrainian army lieutenant – was responsible for the deaths of the journalists, saying she had directed mortar fire aimed at a rebel checkpoint where the two reporters were at the time they were killed.

Savchenko has been illegally held by Russian authorities for nearly two years after Moscow-backed separatists in east Ukraine kidnapped her in June 2014 while she fighting as a front-line combat volunteer in Kyiv’s Aidar Battallion.

The separatists whisked her away to rebel-held territory, deep in the country’s war torn Donbass Region, where she was handed over to operatives of Russia’s intelligence services.

Savchenko was then smuggled across Russia’s border to the neighboring Rostov region and given over to local authorities in Donetsk – which shares a name with its larger, more famous namesake on the Ukrainian side of the border – and initially charged with an illegal border violation.

While awaiting trial, she was subjected to torture and harsh interrogation methods by her captors – including being stripped naked and chained to a metal pipe.

The authorities in Moscow formally became involved in the case when they ordered the local court to instead charge her with the murder of the two journalists.

Her defense counsel, former Pussy Riot lawyer Mark Feygin, has repeatedly claimed that his client was intentionally targeted by the FSB and has been unlawfully held as a political prisoner with no access to the due process of law.

According to records from the GPS positioning device and mobile phone carried by Savchenko, she was taken prisoner more than one hour before the death of the two Russian journalists and in a location far from the site of where they were killed.

In the show trial that has ensued, the court ruled the evidence irrelevant and inadmissible before the proceedings began.

Russia’s Kremlin-controlled media launched a savage media campaign against Savchenko casting her as a bloodthirsty Fascist and using blatantly sexist epithets to describe her.

One Moscow-based news outlet went so far as to call her “a killing machine in a skirt” and attempted to depict her as “a cold blooded Ukrainian slut who supports the Western-backed junta in Kyiv”.

Both Kremlin and court officials – including the presiding judge – have consistently circumvented Russia’s legal code by insisting that she is guilty and going on record as to say that the hard evidence pointing to Savchenko’s whereabouts at the time of her capture is nothing but fabricated Western propaganda.

Contradicting the claim that she was taken prisoner in combat by rebel forces, the judge also ruled that Savchenko voluntarily and illegally crossed the border into Russia without her passport and was detained as an illegal alien.

Savchenko’s case has become a cause celebre for the international community and a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to Moscow’s aggressive policy towards other former Soviet republics.

Governments around the world and the UN called for her immediate release, claiming her detention was politically motivated.

Moscow has angrily responded to the pleas, saying any international pressure amounts to illegal interference in the Russian criminal justice system.

Despite Moscow’s intransigence, many of Ukraine’s closest allies – including Georgia – have held mass demonstrations in support of Savchenko and Ukraine.

Georgian demonstrators held a rally outside the former Russian Embassy in Tbilisi on Monday night that included a full performance of a Georgian war dance by famed national dance troupe, Sukhishvili.

The crowd waved Ukraine’s blue and yellow national flags and matching placards with messages directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin, demanding Savchenko’s release.


Posted by Sukhishvilebi on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Throughout the trial, Savchenko repeatedly mocked the proceedings as a kangaroo court. She often appeared in her caged dock in full national costume or a simple white t-shirt emblazoned with the stylized trident of medieval Kyivian Rus Prince Yaroslav the Wise.

When asked by the judge to speak on her own behalf, Savchenko would refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court, saying their ruling meant nothing to her as she refuses to acknowledged the authority of Russia’s corrupt legal system.

When the judge began to read out her sentence, Savchenko reacted by starting to sing a Ukrainian folk song. The judge had to stop the proceedings for at least five minutes as protestors continuously called for her release. The hearing was interrupted a final time after people in the crowd began to sing the Ukrainian national anthem.

The obviously annoyed judge responded by chastising the crowd.

“If any of you think this is funny, you can leave the court room immediately.”

A defiant Savchenko quickly responded, “I think this is funny.”

By Nicholas Waller

22 March 2016 21:40