27.10.2014 | Halya Coynash

Nadiya Savchenko: Unbroken in Russian detention, now Ukrainian MP


Update: As, unfortunately, expected, Judge Valentina Levashova from Moscow’s Basmanny Court has allowed the application brought in closed session by the investigators, and extended Nadiya Savchenko’s detention by a further four and a half months, to Feb 13

Although the vote count is not over, it is basically certain that Nadiya Savchenko has been elected to Ukraine’s parliament.  Her lawyer, Mark Feygin has said that he will be collecting the documents to formalize Savchenko’s status as MP. The fearless Ukrainian pilot was captured by Kremlin-backed militants and then abducted to Russia where she has been held unlawfully since the beginning of July.

The latest term of detention expires on Monday Oct 27, and the Basmanny Court in Moscow is due to ‘decide’ whether to extend the detention.  The hearing is behind closed doors and taking place in Savchenko’s absence.  She has not been allowed to attend most of such hearings, but in this case the pretext is because she is incarcerated in Moscow’s notorious Serbski Institute where the authorities are trying to force her to undergo a ‘psychiatric assessment’.  She has condemned the move as unlawful and stated back in August that she would not take any part in the supposed ‘examination’.  According to her lawyer, she is refusing to answer any questions or in other ways cooperate with the staff of the institute.

If the Serbski Institute’s reputation for punitive psychiatry dates back to Soviet times, the Basmanny Court in Moscow has gained notoriety under President Vladimir Putin for rubber stamping any politically motivated detention or conviction.  It therefore seems unlikely that the court will consider the case on its merits and release Nadiya Savchenko. 

An indicator of the lawlessness of this case is seen in the fact that the court appeals against the ‘psychiatric assessment’ were constantly deferred, and finally postponed until after the ‘assessment’ is concluded.

Another hallmark of this ‘case’ is the fact that both the investigators and the court have, in all seriousness, called the Donbas region of Ukraine as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. 

According to Ukrainian foreign ministry officials, Savchenko is one of the prisoner who should be released under the Minsk Agreement.  A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson has claimed that this is not the case, yet since she was first taken prisoner by the militants Russian is heavily supporting, the denial is quite untenable.  Calls for her release have also come from high-ranking western officials.

Nadiya Savchenko was taken prisoner in the Luhansk oblast by 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 then transpired that she was being held in a Russian SIZO.  She was first remanded in custody by a Voronezh court on July 2, then on July 9 Russia’s Investigative Committee announced  that she was being charged with 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 claimed 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 asserted that Savchenko had crossed the Russian border, without any documents, pretending to be a refugee.  They alleged that she had been initially detained to establish her identity.

This story is totally denied by Savchenko who says she was forcibly taken across the border with a bag over her head and in handcuffs.   The Russian investigators’ version is also wildly implausible.  More details about the holes in the case, and the use of Russian TV to try to conceal them here.

The defence have provided compelling evidence showing that Savchenko had been captured before the Russian journalists were killed. Neither this, nor the discrepancies in the investigators’ story has had any impact on the courts and it seems likely that they are simply handing down the rulings demanded of them. 

It is disturbing that even the hearing on Oct 27 should be taking place behind closed doors. As reported here, the investigators have previously asked for the trial as a whole to be held behind closed doors.  Their motives seem all too clear, and have nothing to do with ensuring the course of justice. 

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