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Ukrainian army ex-pilot found guilty of death of Russian journalists near Lugansk — court

March 21, 2016, 11:18 UTC+3

Commander of Ukraine's Aidar volunteer battalion Melnichuk has been called the mastermind of murder of Russian journalists near Lugansk

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© Valery Matytsin/TASS

DONETSK (Rostov region), March 21. /TASS/. The Rostov region's Donetsk court has found Nadezhda Savchenko guilty of death of Russian journalists near Ukraine's Lugansk.

The verdict reads she is guilty of murder of VGTRK journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, as well as of attempt on lives of civilians and illegally crossing of the Russian border.

The court used as basis of the accusation the proofs presented by the prosecution, including testimonies from witnesses, results of tests.

The sentence says Savchenko "having skills of military training, and experience in military actions in Iraq, while on a holiday, on her own choice in order to participate in the armed conflict in Ukraine’s south-east, came to the Aidar battalion under commander Sergey Melnichuk, which was located in the town of Schastye in the Lugansk region." Savchenko on her own decided to participate in the artillery firing from D-30 howitzers at civilians, who had refused to recognize legitimacy of the current Ukrainian power and who chose to establish their own separate republic.

Earlier, Savchenko said she would appeal the court decision. Voicing of the verdict continues. The term for Savchenko will be announced on March 22.

The commander of Ukraine’s Aidar battalion, Sergey Melnichuk, has been identified as the mastermind of the Russian journalists’ murder near Lugansk.

"Melnichuk was the organizer of the crime. As the Aidar battalion’s commander he acted as the crime’s mastermind in accordance with a plan drawn up in advance and supplied Savchenko with gear and equipment," the court’s verdict runs.

The court found that unidentified Ukrainian military servicemen and Melnichuk used the coordinates received from Savchenko to fire no less than six high explosive fragmentation shells with three D-30 howitzers. There were three sighting shots and three shots to kill. The court said the attack was mounted "for the purpose of killing an unlimited number of civilians out of hatred and hostility towards a social group."

The criminal case involving the commander of the Aidar battalion and other unidentified Ukrainian military servicemen will be investigated separately.

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