Ukraine Lists Individuals It Wants EU To Blacklist Over Savchenko Trial
BRUSSELS -- Ukraine has identified nearly 50 people it considers responsible for the "illegal detention and falsified trial" of Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko and has urged the European Union to impose sanctions against them.
The list of 46 names, which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko handed over to the heads of the European Council and the European Commission in Brussels on March 17, includes 44 Russians and two Ukrainians.
All are "directly involved in the illegal process against the Ukrainian officer and pilot Nadia Savchenko, who is illegally kept in a Russian prison, " Poroshenko told RFE/RL.
Savchenko is currently awaiting her verdict in a Russian military court trial in which she is accused of complicity in the murder in 2014 of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a conflict against separatist forces. The pilot’s case has been widely condemned as a show trial and has led to calls by U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders for Russia to release Savchenko.
Savchenko, who has defiantly denied the charges and said she will not recognize the court or its ruling, is a member of the Ukrainian parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in absentia.
Poroshenko was adamant that the European Union should act quickly to punish individuals who have played a role in Savchenko’s case.
"If you are talking about values, neither Ukraine nor the European Union can keep silent and do nothing, " Poroshenko said, arguing that sanctions would be an "effective reaction against the brutal violation of international law and human rights."
He said that more names could be added to the list, noting that officials Kyiv believes are involved in the detention of up to 10 other Ukrainian prisoners in Russia should also be punished.
European Council President Donald Tusk, speaking together with Poroshenko and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, addressed what he described as Savchenko’s illegal detention in Russia.
"Let me in this context reiterate the call by the EU for her immediate release, " he said, along with "all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens."
The list handed over by Poroshenko includes Russian Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin, Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov, and Deputy Prosecutor-General Viktor Grin.
The two Ukrainian citizens listed are Valeriy Bolotov, who at the time of Savchenko’s capture was a separatist leader in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, and Igor Plotnitsky, the region’s current separatist leader and commander of the armed group that Kyiv believes captured Savchenko.
Many on the list are also included in a similar list of 29 people that members of the European Parliament handed over to EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini last week. The Ukrainian list, unlike the European Parliament’s, does not include Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Several EU foreign ministers brought up the issue of Savchenko during a meeting in Brussels on March 14, but EU sources told RFE/RL that the desire to adopt new restrictive measures in the European Union is low at the moment. The EU recently prolonged by six months asset freezes and visa bans imposed against 146 people and 37 entities from Ukraine and Russia the EU deems responsible for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The EU might, however, face a struggle to extend economic sanctions against Russia’s banking and energy sector that are up for renewal on July 31. With that in mind, an EU source told RFE/RL, imposing new sanctions would be a hard sell, although the source said it was possible that foreign ministers could discuss the possibility of new sanctions when they meet in Luxembourg on April 18.
During his interview with RFE/RL, Poroshenko also discussed Ukraine’s desire to obtain visa-free status within Europe’s Schengen zone. Following his meeting with Tusk and Juncker, in which the European Commission’s intention to propose a visa-free regime with Ukraine in April was confirmed, Ukraine was poised to reach the level of Georgia in its efforts to gain access to the passport-free zone, according to Poroshenko.
“We are now together with Georgia in one boat, " he said. "We fulfill everything. This is very positive news; this is a great achievement for Ukraine and I am absolutely sure that this is a great achievement for the European Union because this is a win-win situation for both sides.”
Georgia and Ukraine were long coupled in the visa-free process, but in February the European Commission decided to separate them due to the lack of progress on key reforms in Ukraine. Earlier this week, however, the Ukrainian parliament passed several laws related to strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption.
According to RFE/RL sources, the European Commission proposal is expected to come after the Dutch referendum on April 6 on the Ukrainian Association Agreement. Any proposal to allow Ukraine to enjoy visa-free travel within the Schengen zone will need to be approved by the European Parliament and the 28 EU member states.