Nadiya Savchenko confirms she was taken to Russia by force (updated)
Update: On Wednesday evening the Ukrainian consul Hennadiy Breskalenko was finally able to meet with Nadiya Savchenko, who is being held in a Russian SIZO [detention unit] . Savchenko denied Russia’s claim that she crossed the Russian border pretending to be a refugee. She says that she was taken out of Ukraine with a bag over her head and handcuffed. Her abductors changed cars several times.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has tried to foist a fourth defence lawyer on the case involving the extraordinary charges brought against Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko. The investigators have also prevented Savchenko’s sister Vera from coming to Moscow by effectively threatening that she too will be detained.
Meanwhile Ukrainian lawyer Valentina Telychenko reports that the European Court of Human Rights has given Ukraine’s application over Nadya Savchenko’s abduction and appearance in a Russian SIZO [detention unit] priority attention.
The Ukrainian office of the Polish NGO Open Dialogue reports that one of the three lawyers representing Savchenko in Moscow was told by an Investigative Committee official on Tuesday that a fourth lawyer has been attached to the case.
This is denied by Vera Savchenko who stresses that Mark Feygin is her sister’s lawyer, together with his colleagues Ilya Novikov and Nikolai Polozov.
Feygin comments that this is a standard tactic used to torpedo the defence, to fuel uncertainty and to confuse the public.
Open Dialogue also reports that Vera Savchenko was forced to cancel her planned trip to Russia after the investigator, Dmitry Manshin informed the Ukrainian representative that he planned to interrogate Vera. The defence feared that she could be detained and pressure brought on Nadiya Savchenko if she came to Russia and advised against the trip.
Andriy Valchyshyn from Open Dialogue says that the pressure on Vera Savchenko is only the first stage in a campaign to neutralize Nadya Savchenko’s defence. Open Dialogue anticipates efforts in the near future to discredit and put pressure on Nadiya’s family, Feygin and his colleagues, and also Open Dialogue and other human rights activists.
Valchyshyn says that according to their information, Vladislav Surkov, adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is in charge of the campaign to discredit Savchenko’s defence. Surkov, he says, is believed to be the organizer of the anti-Ukrainian campaign in the Russian media in general, and coverage of the military action in eastern Ukraine in particular.
Valentina Telychenko has posted the letter she received from the European Court of Human Rights on July 15. The letter says that the case is being given priority status, and that the Russian government has been forwarded questions regarding how Savchenko came to be in a Russian SIZO and why she has not been allowed to meet the Ukrainian consul.
As reported, Nadiya Savchenko was taken prisoner in the Luhansk oblast by Kremlin-backed militants from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic on June 17 or 18. Two days later a video appeared of her being interrogated by the militants. She demonstrated courage during the interrogation and refused to provide the information the militants demanded.
It is not known when she was taken to Russia, but on July 2 a Russian court remanded her in custody until August 30. An appeal against this detention order on July 1o was rejected.
Russia’s Investigative Committee announced on July 9 that charges had been laid against Savchenko for alleged “complicity in the group killing of two or more people carrying out official activities in a publicly hazardous manner for motives of political hatred”.
The investigators claim that in June, as a member of the Aidar Battalion, Savchenko found out the whereabouts of a group of TV Rossiya journalists and other civilians outside Luhansk, and passed these to fighters who carried out a mortar attack which killed TV Rossiya employees Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.
They also assert that Savchenko crossed the Russian border, without any documents, pretending to be a refugee. They allege that she was initially detained to establish her identity. “After that it transpired that Savchenko is a suspect in a criminal case over the killing of Russian journalists.”
The version presented by the Russian authorities is demonstrably false as there is evidence that Savchenko was taken captive by militants. The entire case shows an extraordinary disregard for international law, and leaves no doubt about the close collaboration between the militants and Russian authorities.