February 28, 2015

Court refuses to release Savchenko 


MOSCOW – The Moscow City Court on February 25 rejected hunger-striking Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko’s challenge against an extension of her pre-trial detention period, upholding a ruling that she should remain in custody until May 13. Lt. Savchenko was captured by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in June 2014 and taken to Russia in July. Russia has charged her with involvement in a mortar attack that killed two Russian journalists in the conflict between government forces and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. In January, she was additionally charged with illegal border crossing. Lt. Savchenko denies the charges, saying that she was kidnapped on Ukrainian territory and illegally transferred to Russia; she has been on a hunger strike to protest her illegal imprisonment since December 13, 2014. Lawyers, relatives, and human rights activists have expressed increasing concern over her health. At the initial custody-extension hearing on February 10, a lawyer voiced concern that Lt. Savchenko may not survive until May 13 if she remains behind bars. On February 24, German Foreign Affairs Ministry officials expressed concerns over her health, saying that German doctors had visited Lt. Savchenko in detention on February 14. On February 9, 14 European Union foreign ministers launched a plea for Russia to free Lt. Savchenko. On February 4, the U.S. State Department said Savchenko’s life “hangs in the balance” and called her “a hostage to Russian authorities.” (RFE/RL, with reporting by rapsinews.ru and Interfax)