Ukraine detains ex-POW Nadiya Savchenko over alleged terror plot | News | DW | 22.03.2018
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Ukraine detains ex-POW Nadiya Savchenko over alleged terror plot

Ukrainian authorities have detained Nadiya Savchenko, an ex-combat pilot in Ukraine's air force, on suspicion of planning an armed attack against the parliament. Savchenko had gained notoriety after her trial in Russia.

Independent Ukrainian lawmaker Nadiya Savchenko was detained by the SBU state security agency on Thursday after the Ukrainian parliament voted to strip her of immunity. The authorities accuse the 36-year-old former pilot of plotting an armed assault on the chamber.

Savchenko planned "a large-scale terrorist act" in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine's General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko told lawmakers ahead of the immunity vote. According to the prosecutor, Savchenko was working with the Russian-backed separatists to obtain arms for attacking the parliament, including mortar rounds, sniper rifles and grenades.

The attack would bring a "sea of blood, chaos" to Kyiv, Lutsenko said.

The prosecutor also showed a 30-minute video of a woman who looked like Savchenko discussing plans to attack the parliament with two apparently Ukrainian officers.

The danger is 'your people'

Savchenko during the Rada session (picture alliance/dpa/Str.)

Savchenko described the plot as a "surrealist political provocation"

Savchenko attended the vote to strip her of immunity on Thursday but did not directly address the accusations against her.

Instead, she blamed the authorities for betraying the ideals of the pro-European Maidan movement.

If this course continues, "then the danger in parliament won't be me, your danger will be your people," she told lawmakers.

Read more: Is Savchenko a thorn in President Poroshenko's side?

Playing along?

Savchenko previously said she had been aware of being under surveillance. She said the agents were encouraging her to attempt a coup in an effort to discredit her. By playing along, she was hoping to expose the government's scheme against her, Savchenko said.

"This is not a terrorist act, this is a political provocation to make the authorities look ridiculous," she said earlier this week.

Savchenko has also said there were many Ukrainian troopers who "absolutely" agree that a coup would be an "expected and probably a fairly correct development."

Watch video 01:26

Savchenko: 'I'll probably have to run for the presidency."

Fall from grace

Savchenko, a trained combat pilot of the Ukrainian air force, was fighting as a volunteer against pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine when she was captured in 2014. She was then tried in Russia on charges of killing two Russian journalists. Her defiant manner during the trial earned her international recognition and praise by politicians in Ukraine. The Russian court eventually found Savchenko guilty, but she was released and returned to Ukraine after a prisoner swap in 2016.

Read more: Savchenko says Ukraine is "paying for Europe's freedom"

After receiving a hero's welcome at home, she won a seat in the Ukrainian parliament, but her political career was marked by public clashes with the government of President Petro Poroshenko. Notably, she suggested Kyiv rein in its demands for Russia to return Crimea, and offered to negotiate with rebel groups directly.

dj/kl (dpa, Reuters, Interfax, Ukrainski Novini)

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