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US urges Russia to free ‘ill’ Ukrainian pilot

The United States on Wednesday voiced deep concern for the health of a Ukrainian pilot detained in Russia since June after she was captured by pro-Moscow separatists.

Nadia Savchenko has been on a hunger strike since December 13 and is “gravely ill due to her continued detention by Russia,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Calling for Savchenko’s immediate release, Psaki said the pilot had been captured in June in eastern Ukraine and “illegally transferred to Russia by the separatists.”

The arrest of Savchenko, 33, in August has become a cause celebre in her homeland. She was elected a member of the national parliament in absentia at October elections.

Kiev says that she was abducted from Ukrainian territory and taken to Russia, while Moscow maintains she was arrested after crossing the border illegally.

Her lawyer told AFP earlier this month that Savchenko had lost some 26 pounds (12 kilos) and was being held on charges of being involved in the killing of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine.