war crimes in Ukraine

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Nadiya Savchenko will not end her hunger strike nor let them break her spirit

Halya Coynash
Nadiya Savchenko has passed a letter via her lawyers to all those concerned for her fate in which she thanks everybody but rejects pleas for her to end her hunger strike. It is the only way she has to seek justice and she is adamant that she will not eat until the day of her return to Ukraine – or the last day of her life in Russian prison


Nadiya Savchenko has passed a letter via her lawyers to all those concerned for her fate in which she thanks everybody but rejects pleas for her to end her hunger strike.  It is the only way she has to seek justice and she is adamant that she will not eat until the day of her return to Ukraine – or the last day of her life in Russian prison  (the letter in full is below).

The former military pilot, now Ukrainian MP and delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has been on hunger strike since Dec 13, 2014.  She was recently moved into solitary confinement and is not being passed letters.  She has stated emphatically that she rejects any attempt to force-feed her which she would consider torture. 

In further violation of both Russian and international law, Nadiya Savchenko was also prevented from seeing her lawyers from late December until Monday January 12.  It is they who have managed to pass on the following letter.

To all those concerned about my fate

A heartfelt thank you for your support. Believe me, I feel it despite the fact that the Russian Investigative Committee has deprived me of the right to correspondence. I have not received a single letter for two months and so I can’t answer you. I’m saying thank you now, therefore, to all those who have written to me or simply remembered me with a kind word.  That has filled me with strength.

Now about the hunger strike. I know that very many people at all levels in Ukraine and throughout the world are doing a lot to secure my release and I am very grateful to them.

I never anticipated such support because both in Ukraine and in the whole world right now there are plenty of problems besides mine…. I am very aware of your concern and feel ashamed that from prison I myself can do almost nothing.  I have therefore decided to fight in the only way available to me – through hunger strike.

But I don’t want you to worry too much about me. Thank God, as well as thanks to my genetic code and my parents, I have the health of an astronaut and will endure. And the part you are playing in my fate will help me in that. Every person who even once a day just thinks good things about me will give me faith and strength, while each who thinks badly will add to my determination and anger!

Yulya Tymoshenko wrote me a letter in which she asks me to suspend my hunger strike and preserve my strength since “the enemy needs us to be weak”.  These are very wise words. Thank you, Yulya Volodymyrovna.

But I want to reassure you that I have never been weak and never will be! They cannot break my spirit, and I’m not going to get into battle with the prison guards!  The main thing is to hold out in spirit, and my physical strength will recover. .. And if God has need for something else, then so be it … the loss of one fighter is a very great loss, but it is in no way a lost war!  Ukraine will win!”

Well, a person who was born free and not a slave in captivity, cannot live in prison. Especially if he or she is innocent.

Through my protest – my hunger – I wish to achieve common sense from the Russian authorities and an awakening of conscience from the Russian Investigative Committee. There is irrefutable evidence of my lack of involvement and innocence of the crimes they accuse me of.  What else do they need?

I have taken the decision to go on hunger strike myself and nobody pushed me into it. I have given my word that “Until the day I return to Ukraine, or until the last day of my life in Russia!” and I will not back down, otherwise what value would my words have?!

I will get through!  Thank you for believing in me!

Nadya Savchenko, 12 January 2015

The 34-year-old military pilot and volunteer with the Aidar Battalion was captured by 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 extraordinary gall given that Savchenko had been taken against her will out of Ukraine and that the journalists had died in the Luhansk oblast, they claimed that the lawyers did not have the right to collect evidence  outside Russia.  This was rejected as an incorrect interpretation of the law by the Advocates’ Chamber of Moscow  and so obviously untenable that the court agreed to include the material. 

The material includes records of phone conversations which demonstrate that Savchenko was nowhere near where the journalists died. 

The Investigative Committee and prosecution have claimed to have evidence which incriminates Savchenko, yet have not once presented it.

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.  A further indication of the total lawlessness of this case was seen in the deliberate deferment of the hearing into Savchenko’s appeal against the so-called psychiatric assessment until after it was concluded.

The court has also refused to address Savchenko’s allegations that she was taken in handcuffs and with a bag over her head to Russia.  This is despite the fact that there is a video of her interrogation on around June 18 by Luhansk militants making it absurd to suggest that within around 10 days she was not only inexplicably released, but decided to make her way to the border into Russia and ask for asylum.

While we hope, with Nadiya Savchenko, that the Investigative Committee members may find some vestiges of conscience, justice as well as straight common sense demonstrated by the investigators, the courts and, of course, those in the Kremlin pulling the strings and the cynical disregard for the law, do not inspire confidence.

Moscow must not be allowed to hide Nadiya Savchenko away in solitary confinement and hope that ‘the problem’ will go away.  The Kremlin may have largely silenced its own media – it is for us to make sure that those who can put pressure on Russia now do so.   

Please write to PACE President Anne Brasseur who will be visiting Ukraine on Jan 15-16 as well as other PACE members asking that they publicly call for Savchenko’s release and have the situation placed on the agenda at the next session beginning on Jan 26  (a draft letter and addresses can be found here )

There is also a single petition here  


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