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Ukraine’s ex-pilot Savchenko not planning to end hunger strike

February 10, 2015, 16:55 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Nadezhda Savchenko pleads not guilty and says she will continue the hunger strike, which has been lasting for more than 60 days, until she's taken back to Ukraine or until she dies
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Former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko

Former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko

© AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

MOSCOW, February 10. /TASS/. Former Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, accused of complicity to killing two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine, told the Moscow court on Tuesday she is not planning to end her hunger strike which has lasted for over two months.

Savchenko, 32, told Moscow’s Basmanny court, which is considering the extension of her detention: "I will continue the hunger strike, which has been lasting for more than 60 days, until I’m taken back to Ukraine or until I die."

Russia’s Investigative Committee has asked the court to extend Savchenko’s detention until May 13.

The defense team has demanded that the court should release Savchenko on bail.

"We suggest releasing her, including on any sum of bail that the court considers necessary," lawyer Ilya Novikov said. He refused to give details on who will make the bail, but mentioned that this is not a problem.

Ukraine’s parliamentary human rights ombudsman Valeria Lutkovskaya also asked the court to release Savchenko on her personal guarantees.

Ukraine’s embassy in Russia said it is ready to provide Savchenko with accommodation on its territory during the investigation if she is placed under house arrest, her Ukrainian lawyer Viktor Chevguz said.

An investigator said if the measure of Savchenko’s restriction is changed, she could hide on the territory of a foreign country, exert pressure on witnesses and victims or hamper the investigation.

Basmanny Court Judge Artur Karpov dismissed on Tuesday a motion of Savchenko’s defense lawyers asking to recuse him, saying that the defense team has provided no grounds for the move.

Savchenko’s defense team earlier said the judge was included on the Magnitsky list of alleged human rights abusers, and therefore he cannot "consider the case unbiasedly."

The court’s hearings are attended by Savchenko’s mother and sister, a delegation from Ukraine’s Batkivshchyna party (Fatherland) and also Ukraine’s consul.

Savchenko, who understands the Russian language but still needed a Russian interpreter to address the court, pleaded not guilty before Russia and claimed that "she has no relation to the journalists’ killing."

The ex-pilot, who was elected as a Batkivshchyna party deputy to Ukraine’s parliament, told the court she had not attempted to flee to Russia as a refugee, but was taken hostage and abducted on the territory of Ukraine.

Savchenko, who is also now a member of Ukraine's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), dismissed the actions and accusations of the Russian investigation as a "circus."

According to Russian investigators, Savchenko, a member of Ukraine’s Aidar volunteer battalion, used to be a Mi-24 helicopter gunner. During the military hostilities in Luhansk in June last year, she handed over information about the location of two Russian journalists and other civilians near Luhansk to Ukrainian mortar gunners who later opened fire at those locations, investigators say. As a result, the employees of the All-Russian State Radio and Television Company (VGTRK) — journalist Igor Kornelyuk and cameraman Anton Voloshin — were killed.

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