Nadia Savchenko continues her hunger strike: “They will sentence me posthumously.”

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Nadia in better days. (Creative Commons)

The 34-year-old Ukrainian politician and military pilot Nadia Savchenko was abducted and illegally taken across the Russian border in 2014, during the Russian invasion of southeastern Ukraine. She has been held in Russian jail ever since. While in prison, she was elected to the Ukrainian parliament in November 2014. She serves in absentia. The Ukrainian people consider her a hero; it remains to be seen whether she will be a martyr as well.

She is charged with killing two Russian journalists: Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, two employees of Russia’s state-owned television, who died while covering the war in Ukraine last year. Her lawyers note that she was captured a full hour before the mortar strike that killed them, and that she was transported across the border against her will by Russian intelligence officers.

She began a hunger strike on March 4, refusing food and water, after Russian prosecutors asked for a 23 year prison sentence. According to a March 10 article by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the court postponed a verdict till later this month, on March 21 or 22. Her response? “Here’s my final word!” she shouted in Ukrainian. Then she flipped them the bird.

A defiant Savchenko declared that she would recognize neither the court nor its verdict, before she stood on a bench inside the cage for defendants and raised her middle finger in the direction of the judge.

Savchenko emphasized that she is willing to continue the no-food, no-water hunger strike no matter what happens, saying, “You must understand that we are playing with my life; the stakes are high and I have nothing to lose.”

She also said a popular uprising similar to Ukraine’s Euromaidan movement is inevitable in Russia, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot hold on to power by means of people’s blood.”

Savchenko, 34, wore her trademark T-shirt with the Ukrainian trident symbol at the March 9 hearing in the court in the southern Russian city of Donetsk [actually, it’s a Ukrainian city, recently swallowed by Russia – ED], near the border with the home country she has vowed to return to “dead or alive.”

In a recent statement, she spoke defiantly of her “fabricated ‘case’ – 23 volumes of gibberish”:

I’ll speak in Russian to save on a translator, a translator which, as I quite well understand, would be at my own expense. That said, according to human rights law, an interpreter ought to be provided free of charge.

Well, firstly, I want to apologize to the audience for my emotional behavior. The fact is, it’s very difficult to listen to the same lies over and over again for six months and then hear them repeated all day long. Therefore, I couldn’t help reacting to the prosecutor’s speech like I did. …

I am the only person the court failed to find guilty. I am an officer of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. I had every right to defend my land, I was fulfilling my duty. You do not judge veterans of World War II, and for the same reason you do not judge your own troops – but they also killed many people while defending their country. …

I do not know how long this ‘performance’ will take, but I want to say: if, again, the verdict debate take three weeks (as prosecutors requested once), I will immediately resort to defense tools. If the court takes more than two weeks to issue a verdict (which has already been dictated from above and recorded), I will go on a ‘dry’ hunger strike from tomorrow, and they will sentence me posthumously, ‘in absentia’.

I think it is pointless waiting for a POW exchange. … I’m not a bargaining chip, I am an innocent person, and my guilt has not been and cannot be proven. Therefore, I will stand no POW exchange, no bargaining deal, and no procrastination.

And here is the most crucial thing. Let prosecutors sentence me to as many years in prison, as they wish. Not a day longer, not a day shorter. All 23 years. Do not issue a longer or shorter jail sentence for me – so they won’t make any further appeals or delay the procedure. You have proved that you are utterly impotent. You have already proved that Russia can disgrace itself, as exemplified in my case.

You have never defeated me and will never do it! Well, let’s finish it all as soon as possible, I will not wait any longer. It was not you who have given me life, so you can’t own it – and you can’t decide upon my fate. If the verdict takes more than two weeks, I will not wait for it. That’s all I want to say.

Read the whole speech here. Video below.


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