A Russian court has sentenced Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko to 22 years in prison over the deaths of two Russian journalists. The development has led Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to consider sanctions against the Russian officials responsible for the trial.
The trial took place in Donetsk, Russia, near the Ukrainian border. It shares a name with Donetsk, Ukraine, one of the epicenters of the separatist movement in the East that sparked in 2014.
Officials charged Savchenko “with acting as a spotter in an artillery attack that killed Russian state television journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.” Both died in a mortar attack outside of Luhansk.
The West has condemned and called her trial a “farce.” The AFP reports:
The months-long trial has been described as a farce by Western politicians and human rights groups in Ukraine and abroad. Savchenko’s defense team has complained that key witnesses were not permitted to testify, and that evidence they say proves Savchenko’s innocence, including mobile phone records, was ignored by the court. In particular, they said mobile phone records for Savchenko and Kornelyuk show that the Ukrainian pilot had been taken captive an hour before the deaths of the Russian journalists.
Savchenko mocked the trial process throughout, and on the last day of hearings on March 9 cast an insulting single-fingered gesture at the presiding judge.
“You can’t put everyone behind bars – there will be a Maidan (uprising) in Russia,” she told the court. “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin will not be able to keep his power on the blood of the people. All I can do is show by example that by being fearless and strong the Russian state and its totalitarian regime can be whipped into submission.”
She added, “And now do you want my final statement? This is my final statement! Can you see it?”
Russian authorities claimed they detained Savchenko when she illegally crossed the border. She said separatists captured her in Luhansk Oblast and that she was “‘sold’ to the Russian authorities in exchange for arms and equipment.”
“The verdict is an indisputable proof that it is useless to seek justice in modern Russia,” declared Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
When Russia is politically driven, it disregards the fundamental norms and principles of international law, its national legislation, humanity, justice and morality. This unlawful decision, based on the bogus investigation represents not the verdict to Nadiya Savchenko but to Russia itself, in which the Kremlin crushed down any fairness and justice.
Poroshenko asked the National Security and Defense Council about sanctions “against Russian officials involved” in Savchenko’s prosecution. He said he would exchange two Russians for her after her “sentence comes fully into force.”