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Savchenko In Court On 82nd Day Of Hunger Strike

Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko (second from left) is escorted inside a court building as she attends a hearing in Moscow on March 4.
Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko (second from left) is escorted inside a court building as she attends a hearing in Moscow on March 4.

A Moscow court has refused to release a Ukrainian military pilot who has been on a hunger strike in a Russian prison since December.

Jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko appeared in a Moscow court on March 4, the 82nd day of a hunger strike to protest her incarceration in Russia.

The Basmanny district court was hearing Savchenko's appeal against a ruling that barred her from attending a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) session in Strasbourg in January.

Savchenko looked gaunt behind the metal bars of a courtroom cage.

Her lawyer Mark Feigin said on Twitter that the judge rejected a motion by prosecutors to hold the hearing behind closed doors.

Savchenko's lawyers say it was illegal to bar the military pilot, who won a seat in Ukraine's parliament last year and was named a member of its PACE delegation, from attending the session in France.

Savchenko says she was kidnapped by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine in June and illegally transferred to Russia, where she has been charged with involvement in the deaths of two journalists killed covering the conflict between the separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

She began a hunger strike on December 13 to protest the charges and her confinement in pretrial detention.

Savchenko's sister, Vira, said on March 1 that she was "in a very bad state."

In remarks on Twitter on March 3, Feigin said Savchenko promised him she would end her hunger strike if her health became "completely terrible," suggesting she would halt the protest if her life was in danger.

"I got her to say that when it becomes completely terrible, she will take heed and stop. She said this," Feigin wrote.

He said Savchenko promised "to remember that Ukrainians and Russians are urging her not to die."

But he appeared to step back from that statement in comments to RFE/RL, saying only that Savchenko had "promised to think about this very seriously."

He called that "progress."

Meanwhile, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement on March 4 that Savchenko "faces permanent damage to her health, or death," and called on Russia "to urgently release Ms Savchenko on humanitarian grounds."

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