Ukrainian pilot could 'die within days' in Russian jail

27th February 2015, Comments 0 comments

The health of a hunger-striking Ukrainian pilot held in a Russian jail has deteriorated significantly and she "could die within days," a member of the Kremlin's human rights council said on Friday.

Nadia Savchenko, a 33-year-old Ukrainian helicopter navigator, who has been charged with involvement in the deaths of two Russian reporters in a mortar attack in east Ukraine, has been held in a Moscow jail for nearly nine months.

Savchenko denies the charges, saying she was kidnapped and brought to Russia, and launched a hunger strike on December 13. She has refused glucose drips for the past two weeks.

"Over the past days her health sharply deteriorated," Yelena Masyuk, a member of the Kremlin's rights council, said in an open letter released on Friday.

"She's now experiencing serious problems with her internal organs," said Masyuk, who visited the Ukrainian on Thursday.

"Nadezhda Savchenko can die within days," she said, using the Russian version of her name.

Masyuk urged the head of President Vladimir Putin's human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, to appeal to the authorities to place the pilot under house arrest, suggesting that she be held at the Ukrainian embassy or an apartment in Moscow.

"It is not in our power to release Nadezhda Savchenko but we have a right to appeal to those who can change her pre-trial restrictions," she said. "This would save her life."

Masyuk warned that Russia risked another round of Western sanctions and further isolation if the Ukrainian pilot died.

"There is a list for Magnitsky, who died in a Russian jail, (and) there would also be a list for Savchenko," Masyuk said, referring to the notorious death in pre-trial detention of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky's death from untreated pancreatitis after almost a year in jail became a symbol of prison abuse in Russia. The United States passed the Magnitsky Act, blacklisting Russian officials believed to have been implicated in the lawyer's 2009 death.

The EU delegation to Russia said in a statement on Thursday that Russia bore responsibility for Savchenko's "very fragile health" and called for her release on humanitarian grounds.

Fedotov was not immediately available for comment.

© 2015 AFP

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