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Russian rights council says not studying case of reporters murder suspect

July 12, 2014, 19:37 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, July 12, /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s presidential Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC) is not studying the case of Ukrainian national Nadezhda Savchenko accused of being involved in the murder of two Russian journalists, HRC head Mikhail Fedotov said Saturday.

“We are not dealing with Savchenko because no one has submitted any requests to us regarding her,” Fedotov said on Russia’s Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio.

He said Valeriya Lutkovskaya, the human rights commissioner of Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has turned to Russian ombudswoman Ella Pamfilova and Russian Voronezh Region human rights commissioner Tatyana Zrazhevskaya over Savchenko’s case.

“Should she have turned to us, we would be addressing the issue,” Fedotov added.

On July 9, Russia’s Investigative Committee charged Savchenko with involvement in the murder of two Russian journalists. She was detained on Russian territory.

Investigators say that during combat operations near the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk in June, Savchenko, who was a gunner for a Mil Mi-24 (NATO reporting name: Hind) helicopter gunship, joined the Aydar battalion - a paramilitary group of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry fighting against federalization supporters in Ukraine’s embattled Southeast.

Learning the coordinates of the location of a group of Russian journalists and other civilians near Lugansk, she handed them to militants, who opened mortar fire killing All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) special correspondent Igor Kornelyuk and cameraman Anton Voloshin.

Kornelyuk and Voloshin were killed by mortar fire on June 17 near Lugansk, a place of combat clashes between Ukrainian military forces and militia. They were filming a report on people’s self-defense soldiers taking refugees from the danger area. Their cameraman, Viktor Denisov, was lucky to escape death as he was at a distance from the TV crew. All the reporters were wearing signs marked PRESS.

The example of Crimea - a region that did not recognize the authorities imposed during a coup in Ukraine in February and seceded from the country to accede to Russia in March - apparently inspired residents of Ukraine’s Southeast, who supported the country’s federalization. The residents started massive protests and formed militias.

The Donetsk and Lugansk regions bordering Russia held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine. South Ossetia has recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic. No other countries have followed suit so far.

Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against federalization supporters, which has claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed buildings and forced tens of thousands to flee Ukraine, for nearly three months. Moscow has repeatedly called on the Ukrainian authorities to stop the operation and engage in dialogue with the Southeast.

According to Ukraine’s Health Ministry, 478 civilians have been killed and 1,392 wounded during Kiev’s military operation.

According to the press center of Kiev’s army operation in southeastern Ukraine, overall, 173 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 446 wounded over the period of combat activities in Ukraine’s Southeast.

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