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Russian court finds Ukraine pilot Savchenko guilty over journalist killings

The Ukrainian pilot was found guilty of murdering journalists in a case deemed politically motivated by rights groups. Savchenko has described the case as a "lie" and alleged that she was kidnapped by separatists.

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Nadezhda Savchenko: guilty of murder?

A Russian court on Monday found Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko guilty of

murdering journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin,

attempting to take the lives of civilians and illegally crossing the Russian border, the state-owned TASS news agency reported.

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 southeast, came to the Aidar battalion under commander Sergey Melnichuk, which was located in the town of Schastye in the Luhansk region," the verdict said.

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

Reading the verdict is expected to take two days after which Savchenko is to be sentenced.

'Absurd'

Savchenko has denied the charges, describing the case against her as a

"lie."

Earlier this month, the former Ukrainian military pilot initiated a

hunger strike

to protest the trial.

In August, Savchenko's lawyer

Ilya Novikov

told DW the trial was becoming "more and more absurd."

"The charge of murder of two journalists was amended to include illegal crossing of a state border. That's a clear sign about how little the prosecution has to go on. It's getting more and more absurd," Novikov said.

Kyiv contests Russia's narrative that Savchenko entered the country illegally, alleging she was kidnapped by pro-Russia rebels involved in the eastern Ukrainian conflict and handed over to authorities in Russia.

In 2014, Savchenko - known as a war hero at home - left her post in the Ukrainian army to join the Aidar volunteer battalion combating a pro-Russia insurgency in Luhansk.

According to Russian prosecutors, Savchenko provided Ukrainian forces with information regarding the whereabouts of separatists near Luhansk. Several people were killed when the area was shelled by Ukrainian forces, including two Russian journalists.

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