Donetsk, Russia – A Russian judge has started deliberation to decide whether Ukrainian pilot, Nadiya Savchenko, is to be found guilty of complicity to murder two Russian journalists during the war-torn eastern Ukraine. The verdict will come after the end of the verdict-reading process, which is expected to take about two days.
Leonid Stepanenko, the Russian judge, announced that he had heard enough evidence to convince him of her guilt, before launching into an extended reading of the charges against Savchenko, according to a state-run Russian television.
Savchenko has been accused of helping the Ukrainian army target the shelling that led to the June 2014 deaths of two Russian journalist and several civilians in eastern Ukraine. The judge quoted arguments by prosecutors saying that she was driven by “political hatred” toward residents of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, as reported by the Washington Post.
The accused was captured by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine in June 2014 during the separatist conflict in the country and handed over later to Russia. However, Russian authorities insist she escaped from the rebels and was captured after crossing the border by herself.
Nations like the United States and the European Union have called on Russia to free the accused pilot of her charges. Last week Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, announced he would try to get the EU to issue sanctions against a roster of officials involved in Savchenko’s detention.
Possible prisoner exchange
Savchenko’s lawyers have said that she has been the victim of a politicized trial and would be found guilty. Prosecutors have asked the court for a 23-year jail sentence, according to Reuters.
Poroshenko announced recently that he would be open for a possible trade for Savchenko in return for Russian prisoners held in Ukraine, at a press conference early this month. “As the president of Ukraine, using my constitutional rights, yes, it is possible. I am ready to swap so Nadiya Savchenko can come home,” he said.
The discussion with Kiev of a possible exchange for Savchenko has been denied by the Kremlin. Any discussion of an exchange could not take place before a verdict was delivered in the pilot’s case, said a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Source: The Washington Post