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Savchenko Publishes ‘Prisoner’ Lists, Angering Ukrainian Authorities

Ukrainian lawmaker and former Russian prisoner Nadiia Savchenko (file photo)
Ukrainian lawmaker and former Russian prisoner Nadiia Savchenko (file photo)

KYIV -- Ukrainian lawmaker Nadia Savchenko has published the names of hundreds of people who have been taken captive or gone missing during the nearly three-year-old war in eastern Ukraine, ignoring appeals by authorities to keep the information secret.

In a Facebook post on January 10, Savchenko, a former military navigator who was jailed in Russia in 2014 and became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against Russian aggression before her release in May, said she hoped that by publicizing the lists Ukrainian authorities would work faster to facilitate their release.

"Why publish the lists of prisoners and missing people?" she wrote. "So that it would be possible to find them!"

Savchenko laid out a three-step plan to exchange captives, find those believed to be held in secret jails, and locate and identify the remains of those missing who are found dead.

A senior official at the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity so that he could speak freely that his office was "not supportive" of Savchenko's decision to publish the lists. Doing so, he said, makes relatives of those people listed "more vulnerable to scammers and people who want to abuse that information," adding that it was the family's right to decide whether they wanted the names of their loved ones to be disclosed.

"We cooperated with [Savchenko] because after her release she wanted to help [with prisoner exchanges]," the SBU official said. "We shared information with her in confidence on the condition that she would not make that info public."

Releasing the information, he added, "damages the credibility of the Ukrainian side."

Secret Meeting

Savchenko outraged Ukrainian authorities last month after meeting in secret on a trip to Minsk with separatist leaders for consultations on prisoner swaps. Criticized by her own political party for the move, she quit and launched her own political movement.

More than 9,750 people have been killed since the conflict between Kyiv's forces and Russia-backed separatists erupted in eastern Ukraine in April 2014, after Russia seized control of the Crimea Peninsula.

Savchenko says she was abducted by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in June 2014 and taken illegally into Russia, where she was jailed and tried on charges of involvement in what Moscow called the killing of two Russian journalists who died in the conflict

Savchenko was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to 22 years in prison, but was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin in May and released in a swap for two Russians held by Kyiv. She was widely hailed as a hero upon her return to Ukraine, but has faced criticism from nationalists since then.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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