Ukraine pilot plans hunger strike over Russia trial delay
Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who is on trial over the killing of two Russian journalists in war-torn Ukraine, said Thursday she was going on hunger strike and would refuse both food and water.
Savchenko announced the move in court, saying it was in protest at a decision to adjourn the proceedings until next week, her lawyers told AFP.
“The court suddenly announced it would postpone the hearing until March 9 without letting Savchenko deliver her final word,” said one of her lawyers, Nikolai Polozov.
He said Savchenko, 34, had declared she would begin a hunger strike “from today” and refuse both food and water.
He said her lawyers would visit her in detention on Friday to try to persuade her to change her mind because a person can usually survive without food and water for no more than five days.
“She simply may not live long enough to attend the March 9 hearing,” Polozov added.
“Savchenko is a woman of her word and if she promises something then she would keep her promise. That is why this decision is very sad and lamentable.”
Savchenko has fasted before to protest the accusations against her but has never before refused both food and water, another of her lawyers, Mark Feigin, told AFP.
She has already refused food for more than 80 days but broke off her hunger strike in March last year because of severe health problems.
Two journalists from Russian public broadcaster VGTRK — Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin — died in shelling in June 2014, in Ukraine’s eastern Lugansk region.
Russian prosecutors say Savchenko was involved in the killing in her capacity as a volunteer in a Ukrainian battalion.
Savchenko denies the charges and says she was kidnapped and smuggled illegally into Russia.
On Wednesday, the prosecution in the trial in the Russian city of Donetsk requested a 23-year prison sentence for Savchenko and a fine of 100,000 rubles ($1,350/1,240 euros).
In an emotional speech Wednesday, she had threatened to launch a hunger strike — refusing both food and water — if the judge took more than two weeks to prepare and announce the verdict.
“You would deliver the verdict posthumously, without me,” she said in Russian.
Few doubt that Savchenko’s fate will be decided in the Kremlin, and Western leaders as well as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have called on Russian strongman Vladimir Putin to let her go.