Ukrainian pilot facing Russian prison goes on hunger strike | News | DW | 03.03.2016
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Ukrainian pilot facing Russian prison goes on hunger strike

A volunteer pilot currently on trial for killing Russian civilians in the Ukraine conflict has said she will begin refusing food and water. She told the judge he would have to "deliver the verdict posthumously."

Nadezhda Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who has become the most famous prisoner of the conflict in her country, announced on Thursday that she was going on hunger strike after a Russian court decided to postpone her trial. Savchenko is in court over the deaths of two Russian journalists who were killed during shelling in Lugansk in June 2014.

"The court suddenly announced it would postpone the hearing until March 9 without letting Savchenko deliver her final word," one of her lawyers, Nikolai Polozov, told the press.

This would not be the pilot's first time refusing food. Last year she carried out an 80-day hunger strike, stopping only when her health declined severely. Unlike last time, however, she plans to also stop drinking water.

"She simply may not live long enough to attend the March 9 hearing," Polozov said, adding that he would try to persuader her to call of the strike, but that he wasn't sure he would be successful.

"Savchenko is a woman of her word and if she promises something then she would keep her promise," he said. "That is why this decision is very sad and lamentable."

'Show trial'

The 34-year-old has denied the claims that she murdered Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, two reporters with the public broadcaster VGTRK, and said she was kidnapped and smuggled into Russia while serving Ukraine in a volunteer battalion.

Moscow, however, alleges that she provided the Kyiv's army with coordinates for an attack that killed not only the two journalists but also several other civilians.

One of her lawyers dismissed the entire proceedings as a "show trial" for the Kremlin to flex its political muscle.

If convicted, she faces a 23-year prison sentence. In an emotional speech in court on Wednesday, she had pleaded with the judge to be swift in deliberating over the verdict.

Western leaders and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to grant Savchenko clemency.

es/sms (AP, AFP)

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