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Ukrainians attack Russian Embassy in Kyiv, demanding pilot's release

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.

A participant, with a tattoo on his arm reading 'Putin is a thief!', holds a scarecrow depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Protestors hanged an effigy of Russian President Vladimir Putin

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."

Former Ukrainian pilot Nadiya (Nadezhda) Savchenko TASS

Savchenko is on trial in Russia for the alleged killing of two journalists

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)

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