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Jailed Ukrainian Pilot 'Partially' Halts Hunger Strike

Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko appeared in a Moscow court on March 4.
Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko appeared in a Moscow court on March 4.

A lawyer for Nadia Savchenko says the jailed Ukrainian military pilot has "partially" halted her hunger strike, which was in its 83rd day on March 5.

Attorney Mark Feigin posted a handwritten letter from Savchenko on Twitter in which she wrote that she would now drink broth "in order to live -- and to fly."

She thanked supporters and wrote, "I will fight! Together with you!" and added: "To be able to fight, one must be strong!"

Feigin visited Savchenko in a Moscow pretrial detention center after the Russian prison service announced that she had agreed to follow doctors' recommendations.

"I confirm...a partial halt of the hunger strike," he wrote.

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 complicity in the killing of two journalists who died covering the conflict.

Russia has rejected repeated Western calls for the release of Savchenko, who began a hunger strike on December 13.

She denies wrongdoing and says Russia has no right to try her.

Zoya Svetova, an activist who visited Savchenko in pretrial detention on March 1, said she had agreed to drink nutritional supplements "for some period of time."

Svetova, a member of a Moscow city commission that monitors conditions for inmates, said that Savchenko had agreed to do so in part in order to avoid losing consciousness, which she feared would led to force-feeding.

Hero Of Ukraine Status

Savchenko, 33, has looked gaunt in recent court appearances, including one on March 4.

An appeals court late last month upheld a ruling extending her period in pretrial detention until May 13.

Relatives and lawyers have voiced concern she may not live that long, and there have been few signs that prosecutors are ready to begin her trial.

In rejecting calls for her release, Russian officials have said Savchenko's fate will be decided by the courts.

But rights activists and Western officials say rulings in high-profile, politically charged cases are frequently dictated by President Vladimir Putin.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on March 5 that the Kremlin has received a letter in which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appealed to Putin for Savchenko's release.

"The letter has been received, a reply will be formulated," Peskov told reporters.

For many in Ukraine, Savchenko has become a symbol of resistance against Russia, which took control of the Crimean peninsula in March 2104 and supports separatists whose conflict with government forces in the east of the country has killed more than 6,000 people since April.

In a statement on March 2, Poroshenko called Savchenko "a symbol of unbroken Ukrainian spirit and heroism, a symbol of the way one should defend and love Ukraine, a symbol of our victory."

He granted her Hero of Ukraine status.

With reporting by Interfax
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