Ukrainians protesting for the release of pilot Nadezhda Savchenko have attacked the Russian Embassy in the capital, Kyiv. Many see Savchenko as a symbol of resistance against Moscow.
Hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside Moscow's diplomatic mission in Kyiv on Sunday, demanding the release of Nadezhda (Nadiya) Savchenko, a 34-year-old pilot on trial in Russia for the alleged killing of two journalists.
Protestors threw stones and eggs at the Russian Embassy building, breaking several windows, smashing cars and burning a Russian flag.
Activists also attached a makeshift gallows to the embassy fence, hanging an effigy of Russian President Vladimir Putin with a sign saying "murderer."
Oleg Grishin, an embassy spokesman, told the AFP news agency that the situation outside the embassy was "rather tense." He also claimed that protestors had thrown flares and smoke pellets.
Ukrainian police said a "hooliganism" probe had been opened over the attack.
Symbol of Ukrainian resistance
Earlier in the day, more than 1,000 people had turned up on Kyiv's Maidan square joining in rallies in support of Savchenko. Some demonstrators held pictures of the pilot, while others held posters reading "Free Savchenko" and "Cannot break Nadiya."
Earlier this week, Savchenko announced that she was going on a hunger strike, rejecting both food and water to protest delays in her controversial trial. Known in Russia as a "dry hunger strike," refusing both food and water was a method of last resort for Soviet dissidents under the communist regime.
Savchenko's sister Vera, who attended the rally with their elderly mother, said it was hard for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fight "such a mean enemy that is the Kremlin."
Prosecutors say that Savchenko was involved in the killing of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 in her capacity as a volunteer in the Ukrainian military. Savchenko has denied the charges, saying she was kidnapped and smuggled into Russia. Prosecutors are seeking 23 years in prison.
The US State Department has repeatedly called for Savchenko's "immediate" release.
ss/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)