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Ukrainian pilot jailed in Russia ends dry hunger strike

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   March 10, 2016 at 12:17 PM

MOSCOW, March 10 (UPI) -- Nadiya Savchenko, a former Ukrainian pilot and politician on trial in Russia over the alleged killing of two journalists, ended a hunger strike on Thursday after nearly a week.

Savchenko, who denies accusations she directed mortar fire that killed journalists in Ukraine in 2014, is consuming Nutrison, a liquid nutrient, and drinking water. She had entered a dry hunger strike on Friday, which means she rejected both food and water.

BBC News reported Savchenko ended her hunger strike after she received a letter from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko -- a letter that turned out was not in fact from the president, according to Mark Feygin, one of Savchenko's lawyers.

"Thank God Nadiya has stopped her dry hunger strike. Pleas from Petro Poroshenko and everyone who supported her impacted her decision!" Nikolay Polozov, another lawyer for Savchenko, said in a statement.

At the end of the trial on Wednesday, Savchenko showed her middle finger to the judges in a show of defiance -- alleging that Russians were "fascists" and describing her trial as a "farce." Prosecutors have asked for a 23-year prison term.

A verdict in the trial is expected to be delivered on March 21 or 22. The trial has been criticized by human rights organizations and several governments.

"Russia's continued detention of Savchenko demonstrates blatant disregard for its commitments under the Minsk agreements. Savchenko -- as well as all Ukrainians who are being held illegally by separatists and by Russia -- should be free," U.S. ambassador Samantha Power of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said in a statement. "We call on Russia to release her at once."

In a statement Savchenko was prevented from delivering by the Russian court last week, she condemned the trial wholeheartedly.

"I accept neither guilt, nor the verdict, nor the Russian court. If I am found guilty there will be no appeal. I want the whole democratic civilized world to see that Russia is a country with a totalitarian regime and a petty tyrant-dictator, where human rights and international law are spat upon," Savchenko wrote in the statement.

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