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Savchenko Sentenced To 22 Years In Prison

  • RFE/RL

A court in southern Russia has convicted Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko on all charges and sentenced her to 22 years in prison and a fine of 30,000 rubles ($441).

Judge Leonid Stepanenko on March 22 concluded reading the verdict in the controversial case in the southwestern Russian city of Donetsk, adding that Savchenko would receive credit for time served since she was arrested on June 30, 2014.

The hearing was briefly suspended just before the judge pronounced sentence when Savchenko began singing a patriotic Ukrainian song from the defendant's holding area.

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office issued a statement saying it was satisfied with the court's ruling. Interfax quoted an unnamed "law enforcement source" as saying Savchenko could be handed over to Ukraine if Kyiv makes an official request, but only after the sentence takes official effect in 10 days.

In Kyiv, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin posted on Twitter that the results of the trial were "expected" and "it is the beginning of a new step in the struggle" to free Savchenko.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was prepared to exchange two Russians -- who were captured during fighting in eastern Ukraine and whom Kyiv believes are Russian servicemen -- for Savchenko. He also called for "individual sanctions" against judges and prosecutors involved in Savchenko's case and those who participated in other trials of Ukrainian citizens in Russia, including the trial of filmmaker Oleh Sentsov.

Savchenko defense lawyer Mark Feigin said outside the court that he "guarantees" that Savchenko will not serve her term in a Russian penal colony. "She will be released," he said.

Fellow defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov told journalists after the hearing that Savchenko plans to resume a dry hunger strike -- one in which she refuses even to drink water -- in the very near future.

Specifically, Savchenko was sentenced to 18 years for complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists during fighting in eastern Ukraine in June 2014. She was sentenced to 10 years for complicity in the attempted killings of other civilians in the same incident. The fine was for illegally crossing Russia's border.

Russian officials say she directed mortar fire against a checkpoint manned by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine that resulted in the deaths of the journalists.

Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence her to 23 years in prison.

Earlier, the judge dismissed all the defense testimony and arguments. He rejected the defense claim that Savchenko is covered by immunity based on her status as a deputy in the Ukrainian parliament and a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

At one point earlier in the day, the reading of the verdict was briefly suspended and the courtroom cleared. Participants were compelled to go through security checks a second time before the judge continued.


Savchenko denies the charges and says she does not recognize the Russian court or its right to try her. During the hearing on March 22, she wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a Ukrainian patriotic symbol and frequently sat down while the rest of the court stood for the judge's ruling.

At one point during the hearing, laughter was heard in the courtroom and the judge asked if anyone found the proceedings amusing. Savchenko yelled from her holding area, "I do."

Proceedings in the high-profile case began in September 2015. Savchenko has gone on hunger strike several times to protest her detention and recently gave judges the middle finger.

Amnesty International on March 21 slammed the proceedings as falling short of international standards and called for a retrial "that remains free of political interference."

"It is abhorrent to send Nadia Savchenko to prison after such a flawed, deeply politicized trial," said Amnesty's director for Europe and Central Asia, John Dalhuisen.

Germany's Foreign Ministry said the trial "breached the principles of the rule of law."

A spokesman for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on March 21 that Kyiv was continuing to press Russia for Savchenko's release.

"Savchenko's release is envisaged in the Minsk agreements," said spokesman Svyatoslav Tseholko, referring to the internationally mediated process to regulate the conflict in eastern Ukraine. "The fact that she has not been freed yet means Russia is violating them."

RFE/RL's Russian Service reporter Anton Naumlyuk posted on Twitter that court officials have done "everything to prevent journalists from covering the Savechnko trial normally."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, TASS, and Interfax