Day 744: As Show Trial Nears End, Prosecution Demands 23-Year Sentence For Nadezhda Savchenko

March 2, 2016
Photo: Mark Feygin

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An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


3 Ukrainian Servicemen Killed, 14 Wounded With Fighting Flaring In Lugansk

Today Ukraine reported the worst day of casualties in several weeks, with 3 servicemen killed and 14 wounded over 24 hours.

At a press conference at noon Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, said that three soldiers had been killed and two wounded near the village of Toshkovka, in the Lugansk region. Six were wounded by an explosive device near Artyomovo, outside Gorlovka, one by an RPG round in Marinka, one by a sniper in Slavnoye, southwest of Donetsk, and another by a shell blast near Chermalyk, northeast of Mariupol.

Military press officer Oleksandr Bryhynets wrote yesterday on Facebook that the heavy casualties near Toshkovka had occurred after a military vehicle of the 80th Airmobile Brigade was blown up. Multiple blasts were heard in the area, he said. 

In addition, three members of a “mobile group” monitoring smuggling along the frontier near the village of Tryokhizbenka, around 30 kilometres to the east, were wounded after being attacked by Russian-backed fighters.

A medical officer from the 92nd Independent Mechanised Brigade told the 112 television channel that two of the wounded men were officers of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and one was a soldier. 

All suffered shrapnel injuries after Russian-backed fighters opened fire on their Humvee as they drove between Tryokhizbenka and Lopaskino.

Yevhen Sylkyn, press officer for military operations in Lugansk or ‘Sector B,’ told 112 that fighting around Tryokhizbenka had lasted for more than two hours, with automatic grenade launcher fire coming from the direction of separatist-held Prishib.

These weapons were used in two other attacks in the west of the region, Sylkyn said, on Popasnaya and the outskirts of Novozvanovka.

Meanwhile the official website of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) claimed today that Ukrainian forces in Tryokhizbenka had shelled Russian-backed fighters’ positions outside Krasny Liman three times yesterday with 82 mm mortars.

To the southeast, the LNR says Ukrainian troops fired on positions near the village of Zhyoltoye with small arms.


The governor of the Lugansk, Georgiy Tuka, said that attacks in the region were getting heavier by the day, adding that:

“The deterioration of the situation in the region negates any of the promises of the terrorists’ Minsk agreements.”

In the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military reported 34 attacks in the 24 hours preceding 6:00 this morning.

According to this morning’s official report, Russian-backed fighters used 82 mm mortars to shell Ukrainian defensive position in Mayorsk, north of Gorlovka, while neighbouring Zaytsevo and Novgorodskoye came under grenade launcher and machine gun fire.

Around Donetsk city itself, Ukrainian positions near Opytnoye, Peski, Avdeyevka, Nevelskoye, Krasnogorovka and Marinka were attacked. 

Military spokesman Aleksandr Kindsfater told Mariupol news site that both 82 and 120 mm mortars had been used in attacks on Ukrainian positions near Gnutovo, Chermalyk and Talakovka, just outside the port city.

In Shirokino, east of Mariupol, and Slavnoye, just west of the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, Ukrainian troops were attacked with heavy machine guns, grenade launchers and small arms.

Kindsfater said that Ukrainian troops in the Mariupol sector had returned fire only twice.

Meanwhile the ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) accused Ukrainian forces of having shelled separatist-held territory 157 times over 24 hours.

According to the DNR, Ukrainian forces shelled the northern and western outskirts of both Donetsk and Gorlovka with 82 and 120 mm mortars, as well as using infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers and anti-aircraft artillery.

— Pierre Vaux

Savchenko Threatens Dry Hunger Strike If Court Takes More Than 2 Weeks To Reach Verdict
Nadezhda Savchenko has threatened to stop drinking water (she is already on day 76 of a hunger strike) if the court takes more than two weeks to reach a verdict.

I am an officer of the Ukrainian armed forces. I had the full right to defend my own land. You have no right whatsoever to try me. #Savchenko

If the court takes more than two weeks to deliver a verdict, then I will switch to a dry hunger strike from the following day and the sentence will be death #Savchenko

Come on, let’s get this over with quickly – #Savchenko

#Savchenko : You have demonstrated how one can disgrace oneself on the example of one person. You have not broken me and you will not break me.

#Savchenko : Just give the prosecutors as much as they ask for. All 23 years. If you think on it for more than two weeks I will not wait. I’m done.

#Savchenko said that she feels unwell and asks for a break in proceedings until tomorrow. The judge has agreed. Will continue tomorrow at 11:00.

— Pierre Vaux

As Trial Nears End, Prosecution Demands 23-Year Sentence For Nadezhda Savchenko

The trial of Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who was captured by militants near Lugansk in June, 2014, and subsequently illegally transported to Russia where she has been charged with directing artillery fire on a state television crew, is now entering its final stages.

Savchenko is now on the 76th day of a hunger strike.
The prosecution has now asked judges to impose a 23-year sentence and a 100,000 ruble ($1,353) fine on Savchenko for not only murder, but also crossing the border illegally.

Prosecutor Pavel Filipchuk this morning reiterated the Russian authorities’ claims that Savchenko had acted as a spotter, directing mortar fire at civilians, including the two journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, at a checkpoint outside Metallist.

Video footage of the attack on the checkpoint: 

The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford and Jüri Vendik, as well as Savchenko’s defence lawyers – Nikolai Polozov, Mark Feygin and Ilya Novikov, have been tweeting on the proceedings: 

Filipchuk proclaims that Savchenko covertly infiltrated into the militants’ rear and climbed a mast.

The prosecution have expanded the time-range of the attack. According to the investigation materials, it took place between 11:40 and 12. Filipchuk now said “between 11 and 12.” The alibi gets in the way of this nonetheless.

Savchenko says that she had already been captured by Russian-backed militants at 10:30 am. In addition, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) produced purported taped phone conversations between Russian-backed fighters, indicating that they had captured Savchenko no later than 10:46.

Video of Savchenko immediately after her capture:

During her subsequent interrogation by the militants, a video of which was distributed online, no mention was made of the shelling attack (an English transcript is available here):

Incredibly, the Russian authorities claim that Savchenko was then released by the separatists and fled not back to her own lines, but into Russian territory.

Prosecutor Kuznetsov: When they let Savchenko go, she didn’t have her passport, she could not get back to our own side through the LNR positions. She had to cross into the Russian Federation.

Savchenko in fact claims that she was driven across the border by Pavel Karpov, an aide to Vladislav Surkov, a key adviser to President Putin.

The defendant’s story of her abduction and transportation to Russian territory has been disproved over the course of the court proceedings – concluded prosecutor Kuznetsov.

Notably, the prosecution has decided to drop charges of the attempted killing Ukrainian civilians:

“Attempted murder” of civilian residents of Metallist is to be excluded from the charges by the prosecutor, because “to his great regret,” it is not under Russian law.

The prosecutors have realised, after almost a year, that attacks on Ukrainians in Ukraine are outside the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. Suddenly minus six victims.

We will report shortly on Savchenko’s reaction to the prosecution request:

Nadezhda Savchenko has started her closing submission

— Pierre Vaux