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Savchenko Calls For Reconciliation With Separatists, Sparks Outcry

  • RFE/RL

Nadia Savchenko

Nadia Savchenko

Nadia Savchenko, the Ukrainian military officer who became a national hero after spending nearly two years in a Russian prison, called for reconciliation to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, sparking outrage among some lawmakers.

Savchenko, who was elected to parliament while in prison, said in an interview broadcast July 21 on Ukraine’s Channel Five that Ukrainians must “ask for forgiveness.” Otherwise, she said, the violence that has gripped the country’s Donbas region since April 2014 would continue.

Her comments infuriated nationalist lawmakers and others, including Anton Herashchenko who also serves as an aide to the Interior Ministry.

“You, Nadia, are able to ask for forgiveness of...Russians who came to our lands to kill and rape, but we will never ask forgiveness of the occupiers and terrorists,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “We will, through clenched teeth, hold on and achieve the emancipation of our lands by any means!”

Savchenko, a helicopter navigator, was captured in June 2014, and put on trial in Russia, charged with the killing of two Russian reporters covering the war.

Profile: The Many Faces Of Nadia Savchenko

Freed in May as part of a prisoner swap, she returned to a hero's welcome, and has spoken out regularly, calling for direct peace talks with Russia-backed separatists in the east.

More than 9,400 people have been killed in the fighting, according to United Nations figures.