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05.01.2015 | Halya Coynash

Russia silent as Nadiya Savchenko enters fourth week on hunger strike

   

Nadiya Savchenko,  Ukrainian MP and PACE delegate has been on hunger strike in a Moscow prison since Dec 13.  It is now 24 days since she took food, yet her lawyers have been refused access and the prison is not passing on letters.  Both the authorities and pro-Kremlin media have gone silent about the 34-year-old former military pilot who has been held in Russian detention since late June after being captured by Kremlin-backed militants in Ukraine.   

Nikolai Polozov, one of Savchenko’s lawyers, reported on Sunday evening that members of the Public Observer Committee have been able to visit Savchenko in SIZO-6.  She is still on hunger strike and is bearing up, he writes, however she is being held in isolation and is not receiving mail. 

@Glasnostgone is calling a twitter day of action on Monday Jan 5 to ‪#‎FreeSavchenko. They ask people to tweet calls for Nadiya Savchenko’s release in as many different languages as possible.  Other possibilities can be found on the Voices of Ukraine site.  If tweeting, please use the hashtag #freeSavchenko

Nadiya Savchenko is effectively a Russian prisoner of war and has been recognized as a political prisoner by the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre.

She is also a Ukrainian MP and delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE].

PLEASE contact members of PACE [from your country or any on the list here] and ask them to raise the issue of Nadiya Savchenko’s illegal detention in Russia at the PACE session on Jan 26. 

Nadiya Savchenko began her hunger strike on Dec 13 in protest at the prison authorities’ failure to provide treatment for a painful ear inflammation and refusal to pass on medication from a Kyiv doctor.  10 days later she announced that she would continue to refuse food until released after a Moscow court rejected her appeal against the ruling extending her detention until Feb 13.

“I will continue my hunger strike until I return to Ukraine. This is not suicide but the only method of fighting available to me”  - Nadiya Savchenko

Nadiya Savchenko was captured by Kremlin-backed militants from the so-called Luhansk people’s republic around June 17 and was then found, at the beginning of July to be in a Russian SIZO [pre-trial detention unit]. 

Russia’s Investigative Committee and the prosecution claim that Savchenko passed on information about the whereabouts of two journalists from Russia’s Pyervy Kanal.  Igor Kornelyuk and his sound engineer  Anton Voloshin died on June 17 after being caught in shellfire while travelling close to militants of the self-proclaimed Luhansk people’s republic.  Despite immediate reactions from Russia’s Foreign Ministry and government-controlled media, there is nothing at all to indicate that the two men were in any way ‘targeted’.

The investigators have produced no evidence to back their claims.  They also attempted to have the court hearings held behind closed doors, and to block vital evidence from the defence which provides an irrefutable alibi.   With supreme cynicism given that Savchenko was taken prisoner in Ukraine and taken by force to Russia, the investigators claimed that the lawyers did not have the right to collect evidence outside Russia!   Although Russian courts had until then gone alone with every dubious application from the investigators, this was so demonstrably a twisted interpretation of the law, that the court agreed to include the material.  It includes records of phone conversations demonstrating that Savchenko was nowhere near where the journalists died when herself captured.

Despite clear guidelines from Russia’s Supreme Court, the prosecution has still failed to present the evidence it claims to have incriminating the defendant. 

This has not prevented court after court agreeing to extend the period of detention, and rejecting appeals against the entirely unwarranted month-long incarceration in the notorious Serbsky Institute in Moscow.  Savchenko refused to have anything to do with the supposed psychiatric assessment which was condemned by a number of well-known psychiatrists, including Semyon Gluzman, a former victim of Soviet punitive psychiatry.

Putin’s assertion in response to the courageous questions about the imprisonment of Savchenko, Crimean political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and others  from Ukrainian journalist Roman Tsymbalyuk, was especially insincere given the court’s consistent failure to address Savchenko’s allegations that she was taken in handcuffs and with a bag over her head to Russia.  There is a video of her interrogation on around June 18 by Luhansk militants stripping of any credibility the claim by the prosecution that about 10 days later Savchenko entered Russia voluntarily, pretending to be a refugee, and was initially only stopped to check her papers.  

None of this has been questioned by Russian courts. 

The version of events given by the prosecution is that which up till Dec 25 was presented by pro-Kremlin media who have since, almost certainly on instructions from above, fallen silent altogether.

Nadiya Savchenko has demonstrated her courage, her patriotism and her determination.  She has vowed to continue her hunger strike until released, and the grounds for concern about her physical health are therefore serious.

Please help break the Russian silence over this shameful prosecution.

Tweet your demand for Nadiya Savchenko’s release and help ensure that the case is raised at government level and at the Council of Europe. 

Letters can be sent to Nadezhda Savchenko, at ФКУ СИЗО-6 УФСИН России по г.Москве 109383, г.Москва, ул.Шоссейная, 92

OR simply to ФКУ СИЗО-6 УФСИН России по г.Москве 109383, г.Москва, ул.Шоссейная, 92.  Write in Russian or English expressing concern that Nadezhda Savchenko’s lawyers are not allowed to see her until Jan 12; that letters are not being passed to her, etc.  If you comment about the case itself, please use easily translatable and restrained language.  The same applies to any letter of support for Nadiya herself.

[Nadezhda is the same first name in Russian]

A video about Nadiya Savchenko, produced by Glasnost Gone, can be viewed here

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