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The Savchenko case A five-paragraph summary of the most critical Russian-Ukranian trial

Source: Meduza
Photo: Mikhail Pochuyev / TASS / Vida Press

On February 10, the Basmanny District Court in Moscow has prolonged the detention of Ukrainian soldier Nadezhda Savchenko, who is accused of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists in Ukraine. She turned up in Russia in unclear circumstances. Now she is on the 60th day of her protest hunger strike. Medusa summarizes here as concisely as possible everything you need to know about the Savchenko case.

Detention. Ukrainian soldier Nadezhda Savchenko, who fought in the east of the country as a volunteer, was captured by separatists in the middle of June 2014. On July 8, it became known that she was in prison, in Voronezh. What happened between these events is not very clear. Savchenko herself insists that she was forcibly taken onto Russian territory. Russia's Investigative Committee and representatives of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Lugansk are claiming that she escaped from captivity and was later detained in Russia, disguised as a refugee. The Court of Novousmansky district in Voronezh made the decision to keep Savchenko in custody on July 2 — that is, six days before her whereabouts became officially known.

Accusation. Russia's Investigative Committee believes that Savchenko was involved in mortar fire on separatist positions on June 17, 2014, which killed Russian journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin — The Russian authorities are claiming that Savchenko was a spotter in a Ukranian military unit. Later, in 2015, the FSB accused Savchenko of crossing the border illegally. Her defense argues that she was detained by fighters of the People’s Republic of Lugansk at least half an hour before the mortar attack took place and that she could not have calibrated the shelling. In a BBC interview, the battalion commander of the Ukranian unit Aydar, Sergei Melnychuk, affirmed that he carried out the calibration on June 17, together with another fighter whose call sign was Prapor.

Status in Ukraine. In Ukraine, the case of Nadezhda Savchenko was immediately perceived as direct proof of Russia's participation in the war in Eastern Ukraine. The President of Ukraine Poroshenko has repeatedly appealed to his counterpart Vladimir Putin to release Savchenko. Putin has received similar requests and demands from European politicians. In November 2014 Savchenko became a Deputy in the Rada (she was first on the list nominated by Yulia Timoshenko’s Batkivshina party). Since January, she has been a member of the Permanent Delegation of Ukraine in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) . Neither intercession by senior officials, nor numerous guarantees, nor her status, has changed the Russian position. Savchenko is still behind bars.

Conditions of detention. Savchenko was initially detained in a remand prison in Voronezh, but in September was transferred to Moscow to undergo psychological examination. Her defense challenged this procedure in Moscow's Basmanny Court. Since then, Savchenko has never left Russia’s capital. The soldier herself has not complained about her conditions of detention, either in Moscow or in Voronezh. The organization Open Russia says that Savchenko is being held in slightly better conditions than usually exist in Russian prisons: in her cell at the Matrosskaya Tishina jail there are light colored tiles, white tables, a separate shower and a modern toilet.

Hunger strike. Nadezhda Savchenko announced an indefinite hunger strike on December 13, 2014. The formal reason given was that a doctor was not allowed to visit her in her cell. However, even after he was admitted, Savchenko did not stop her hunger strike. Today, February 10, is the 60th day of her hunger strike. She was given glucose injections, but Savchenko refuses to eat. She has promised that she will consider any force-feeding as torture.

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