Ukrainian pilot attacks ‘farce’ of Russian trial

Moscow, March 9 (IANS) A Ukrainian pilot on trial in Russia over the killing of two journalists addressed the court on Wednesday and said she would continue a hunger strike she has been on for five days.

Russia has proceeded with the trial of Nadiya Savchenko despite widespread international condemnation. Last week prosecutors demanded a sentence of 23 years’ imprisonment, The Guardian reported.

“It is an absurd situation when those who abduct people, subject them to torture then act as if they have a right to judge them,” she said, adding “How can one talk about a fair trial? In Russia, there are no trials or investigations; only a farce played out by Kremlin puppets.”

Savchenko has declared a number of hunger strikes during her nearly two years in Russian captivity, but after last week’s hearing she declared she would go on full hunger strike, refusing both food and fluids, until she was returned to Ukraine.

Prosecutors claim Savchenko directed an artillery strike that resulted in the deaths of two Russian television journalists in June 2014. Savchenko, a military pilot, was serving on the ground with a volunteer battalion during the conflict in east Ukraine.

The prosecutors said Savchenko was detained in Russia after crossing the border disguised as a refugee.

However, Savchenko has said she was captured by pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine and then handed over to Russian troops, who took her across the border.

On Monday, US secretary of state John Kerry called on Russia to release Savchenko, saying her detention showed a “disregard for international standards, as well as for Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements”.

After Savchenko’s statement, the judge retired to consider the verdict and sentencing, which are due on March 21.

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