Day 763: Ukrainian Pilot Savchenko Brought to Court for Sentencing

March 21, 2016
Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko in court March 21, 2016.


Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


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


Ukraine’s Negotiator for Savchenko’s Release Says Russians Want Trade Corridor to Crimea in Exchange

Novaya Gazeta’s special correspondent Pavel Kanygin published this evening an interview with the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) official Yury Tandit, the chief negotiator with Russia for a possible exchange involving the release of imprisoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko.

There’s a lot in this lengthy interview but here are a few key points: 

Translation: in exchange for Savchenko, the RF authorities want a trade corridor to Crimea, Tandit, negotiator on behalf of SBU told special correspondent Kanygin.

Tandit is trying to get the release of 128 remaining Ukrainian prisoners who are in the custody of either Russia or the Russian-backed separatists —  79 armed military personnel and 49 civilians including activists and journalists; among them is film-maker Oleg Sentsov.

The SBU officer rejected the idea of a trade of the GRU agents for Savchenko because he said, “We know Russia wants more” (translation by The Interpreter):

“They are interested, for example, in a corridor from Rostov to Crimea. I was openly told this by that very person close to the Kremlin. I said that we were interested in the question of the release of all the hostages. To which they answered” [here he speaks with an accent–PK], “Well, then we need you to meet us half-way. We need a stable connection to the Crimea, so that freight can be hauled there, and passengers.” I said to him that only in the East could a princess be traded for a half-kingdom. And that the issue cannot be put this way. The entire world community has spoken out for Nadiya. And we are prepared for any compromises.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Reading Of Savchenko Verdict Will Continue Tomorrow

The reading of the verdict in the trial of Nadiya Savchenko has ended for the day and will continue tomorrow.

Defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov tweeted:

Translation: The judge has declared a recess until tomorrow. The reading of the verdict will continue at 10 am.

— Pierre Vaux

Rada Human Rights Committee Condemns Disruption Of Lviv LGBT Festival

The Ukrainian parliament’s human rights committee has condemned the harassment of activists in Lviv which saw an LGBT festival cancelled after protests and harassment by far-right groups.

Today the Verkhovna Rada Committee on human rights, national minorities and inter-ethnic relations expressed “deep concern” and condemned the disruption of the festival.

The Committee stated that such behaviour was unacceptable in a democratic state that advocated European values and that those who violated the law must be held accountable. 

Within the scope of our own authority, we demand a transparent and prompt investigation into the events. The European integration of Ukraine is inseparably linked to a tolerant and inclusive society, and also respect for people regardless of the color of their skin, origin, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity and other attributes.

The Committee once again reiterates its commitment to the rule of law and respect for minorities.

— Pierre Vaux

Verdict In Savchenko Trial May Not Come Today
Many non-Russians (and Russians, alike) are frustrated with this aspect of the Russian court system, but verdicts in Russian courts are often very large documents, read in their entirety. The result is a frustrating one, both for the press and the outside world, and of course for the defendants and others involved with the case.
James Miller
An Overview of Nadiya Savchenko And the Case Against Her

For readers who are just tuning in, the sentencing hearing for Nadiya Savchenko has begun. Savchenko is a Ukrainian military pilot, MP, and a member of the Parliamentary Council of Europe, but she is perhaps best known for what is happening to her, as she is accused of the murder of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine.

A crime she almost certainly did not commit.

Savchenko is widely regarded as a political prisoner at best, a hostage at worst. In the end she is a soldier who was kidnapped to another country to stand trial for a crime, that probably is not a crime, just to settle a geopolitical score.

We have written a complete overview of the Savchenko case here, a concise look at who Savchenko is and what this trial is all about: Read it here.  

James Miller
Judge Resumes Reading Verdict In Savchenko Trial

The judge has resumed reading the verdict of Nadiya Savchenko in the Russian border town of Donetsk after a lunch break.

Here is a live feed from the courtroom: 

A delegation of Ukrainian officials was barred entry to the courtroom, as defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov reported:

Translation: They have refused to let the Ukrainian President’s press secretary, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, into the courtroom.

Tsegolko wrote on his Facebook page that Ukrainian consuls had also been barred entry.

Translation: Judge Stepanenko has continued to read out the reasoning portion of his verdict with the testimony of prosecution witnesses.

Nadiya Savchenko is a Ukrainian military officer who was captured by militants near Lugansk in June, 2014, and subsequently abducted to Russia, where she is on trial for the alleged murder of two Russian journalists.

— Pierre Vaux
Two Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, Two Wounded

Two Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and another two wounded over the last 24 hours, with Kiev reporting 32 attacks yesterday.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration announced the casualties at a press briefing at noon today. He said that the wounded soldiers had been injured by shelling near Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk, and Luganskoye, east of Gorlovka.

Both fatalities occurred yesterday when a military truck struck a landmine near Avdeyevka. Leviy Bereg‘s Oleksandr Rudomanov reports that the men served in the 39th Independent Mechanised Infantry Battalion.

According to Colonel Lysenko, Russian-backed fighters shelled positions near the town, using heavy weaponry including mortars, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and even 152 mm artillery. The fire, he said, came from the direction of separatist-held Yasinovataya.

Meanwhile the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency reported, citing a source in the security forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and local residents, that Ukrainian forces shelled the Spartak neighbourhood and Donetsk Airport area with 82 mm mortars. 

In the Gorlovka area, Colonel Lysenko reported shelling near Zaytsevo and on the road near Svetlodarsk, with both mortars and BMP infantry fighting vehicles used. 

In the Lugansk region, the military spokesman said that a shoot-out had taken place near the village of Tryokhizbenka, with Russian-backed fighters supported by 82 mm mortar fire.

In the south of the Donetsk region, military spokesman Aleksandr Kindsfater reported that a group of Russian-backed fighters had attempted to break through the Ukrainian lines near Novotroitskoye, on the highway between separatist-held Donetsk and government-controlled Mariupol.

Kindsfater said that the attack took place at around 15:00 yesterday and was repelled, with the attackers suffering losses.

In addition, the military spokesman reported attacks on Ukrainian positions near Krasnogorovka and Marinka, both west of Donetsk.

— Pierre Vaux

Ukrainian Pilot Savchenko Brought to Court; Confusion Among Reporters As to Whether She is Sentenced Yet

Imprisoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya (Nadezhda) Savchenko was brought to the city court of Donetsk, Rostov Region in Russia this morning, Russian and international journalists are reporting from the scene.

The court decision and sentence are to be read today and tomorrow, and already there is some confusion between the reading of the charges, and whether there is then a decision based on these charges. 

Savchenko was accused of the murder of two Russian state journalists in 2014, despite ample evidence that they died in an explosion at a checkpoint after Savchenko was arrested by the Russian-backed forces of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic”.

But it does not appear at this hour that she has been sentenced yet. There is some disagreement about what is going on, in part because not all reporters have not been allowed in the courtroom.  

Translation: They have stopped letting journalists into the city court, they say the press room is packed. In fact, in the two halls with broadcasting, there are a lot of seats.
Translation: Thus, Savchenko is NOT YET PRONOUNCED guity. Believe Mediazone, and not the agencies.

Translation: Listen to the judge.

Translation: Thus it’s a typical picture, the agencies have screwed up on the Savchenko sentence, confusing the story of the charges and the decision of the court. They picked it up from the statement.

Aleksei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy, tweeted what he said was the judge’s statement. 

Translation: “Savchenko is guilty of unlawful crossing of the border and in abetting the murder of journalists” – judge

But others say it is still the accounts of the charges, not the verdict being read out.

Translation: The judge is reading the account of the charges – the arguments of the prosecution and the arguments of the defense; the issuing of the sentence. For now, the court is in the first phase.

BBC has reported Savchenko has been declared guilty. 

But MediaZone is saying in fact the judge is still reading the indictment.

Translation: Lawyer Polozov writes that the judge is reading out the text of the indictment, copied into the sentence.

We would have to note that it is standard procedure for the indictment and motives to be read out again before the sentence, but given the lack of independence in the Russian judiciary system, especially for a political case of this nature, the indictment and the sentence may be scarcely different. 

Meanwhile demonstrators have appeared outside the courthouse to condemn Savchenko.

Translation: A picket at the Donetsk Court.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick