Ukraine Live Day 589: Nadezhda Savchenko Gives Evidence In Court

September 29, 2015
Nadezhda Savchenko in the Donetsk court room today. Photo: RFE/RL

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Ukrainian President Poroshenko Speaks at UN General Assembly, Condemning Russia

President Petro Poroshenko spoke today at the UN General Assembly. He mainly addressed Russia’s occupation of the Crimea and invasion of the Donbass, framing them in terms of its undermining of the principles of international law and justice. In ever issue on the global agenda, from combating terrorism to preventing pollution of the environment, the Ukrainian leader found a way to link it to the Kremlin’s aggression.

He noted that due to the lack of an effective mechanism for international justice, “the territory of yet another sovereign state had been stolen.”

When the Rome statute creating the International Criminal Court was passed, said Poroshenko, “they couldn’t imagine that this tool would be required to be used on a permanent member,” that is, Russia. He noted Russia had twice used its veto on matters related to the war in Ukraine. The first time was in March 2014, when Russia blocked a UN Security Council condemning the Crimean anschluss.

A resolution reaffirming Ukraine’s sovereignty was passed by the UN General Assembly, with Russia and some but not all former Soviet republics voting against it.

Russia also turned in a “disgraceful veto” on the MH17 tribunal, noted Poroshenko, which “defied the whole world”

He also noted that Russia had blocked international peace-keeping proposals for Ukraine by invoking the veto which Poroshenko called “an abuse” and “a license to kill” which was “absolutely unacceptable” — a remark that brought him sustained applause from the other heads of state and diplomats in the hall.

During this 70th session of the General Assembly, there has been repeated talk of reforming the system whereby only five countries wield the power of veto. There has been called for expansion of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, which Poroshenko endorsed, saying African, Asia and Latin American states should be better represented and the East European Group — which has doubled in the last two decades after the break up of the Soviet bloc — should have a greater presence.

He applauded the stance taken by French President Francois Holland and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto urging Security Council members not to use the veto in cases of mass atrocities.

Poroshenko noted that Ukraine was an “active and devoted participant in UN peace-keeping” operations “despite external challenges” and remains “a reliable partner in this noble matter.” He called for full access of OSCE monitors in Ukraine, “withdrawal of mercenaries and equipment” and restoration of full control of Ukraine’s state border to Ukraine — all features of the Minsk agreements.

Commenting on the challenge of ISIS, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, Poroshenko noted “international terror has proven to be more flexible than the political will of nations and today  as taken a new hybrid form.” For Ukraine, the Russian-backed separatist warfare is deemed “terrorism” and addressed with the Ukrainian military’s “anti-terrorist operation” (ATO). Poroshenko called for “new international instrument” to prevent and combat terrorism and to institute an international day to commemorate victims of terrorism.

Poroshenko also condemned Russia’s occupation of Crimea, where people have been forced to seek Russian citizenship, and where residents of Crimea have suffered arrest, torture and killing. He defended the rights of Crimean Tatars as indigenous people suffering from Russian occupation, linking the effort to international programs on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Poroshenko also mentioned Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot currently on trial on charges of serving as an accomplice to the murder of two Russian journalists at a separatist checkpoint and film-maker Oleg Sentsov and his co-defendant Alexander Kolchenko recently sentenced to 10 and 20 years respectively and noted other Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia, and called for global solidarity on these cases.

Poroshenko also called out the problem of fake news, disinformation, and the propaganda of intolerance and violence — all notorious features of Russia’s “information war” on Ukraine — as undermining freedom of press and “poisoning the human soul.” He called on the UNGA to condemn this “shameful phenomenon” and combat it effectively.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Footage Purportedly Shows Nadezhda Savchenko Immediately After Her Capture
Open Russia has released a video that purportedly shows Nadezhda Savchenko, blindfolded, after her capture by Russian-backed fighters in the Lugansk region last year.

The fighters say that they have captured a sniper-scout. However the captive replies: “I’m not a sniper, I have an assault rifle.”

Open Russia say that the video was filmed by one Yegor Russky, described as a Russian volunteer.

The footage appears to have already been in the hands of Savchenko’s defense team today.

Earlier this morning, Mark Feygin, one of Savchenko’s lawyers, tweeted a screenshot from the video: 

Savchenko says she was captured at 10:30!

— Pierre Vaux

Captured Russian Spetsnaz Officers In Court In Kiev

Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, two Russian spetsnaz soldiers who were captured by Ukrainian forces on May 16 near Schastye, appeared in the Goloseyevsky District Court in Kiev today.

In the first few days after Yerofeyev’s capture, he told journalists that he was a volunteer fighter for the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR), in contrast to Aleksandrov, who has always maintained that he is a Spetsnaz soldier.

In later interviews however, Yerofeyev said that he was indeed a member of the Spetsnaz.

On May 29, Yerofeyev told Novaya Gazeta‘s Pavel Kanyginthat he wanted to be tried for espionage rather than terrorism.

Yerofeyev is keeping himself up. Aleksandrov seems somewhat depressed. A translator is helping both of them

As Ukrainska Pravda reports, the captives’ lawyer, Konstantin Kravchuk, has requested that their trial be moved to a court closer to the scene of their alleged crimes, in Novoaidar in the Lugansk region.

The court has also ruled to extend both captives’ detention by another 60 days, until November 21.

— Pierre Vaux

Nadezhda Savchenko Gives Evidence In Court

Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who was captured by separatist fighters last year and illegally transported to Russia where she faces flimsy charges of murder, is in court again today in the Russian border town of Donetsk.

A live feed of today’s proceedings is available below:

We’re waiting for the beginning of the hearing. Today Savchenko and her lawyers will say what happened on 17/06/14 and later.

Mark Feygin, one of Savchenko’s lawyers:

They’ve begun. Savchenko will give evidence. But beforehand, Novikov [one of Savchenko’s lawyers] is is making a request for a polygraph machine to be brought in (?).

Nikolai Polozov, another member of the defence team, tweeted:

The court has refused to conduct Savchenko’s questioning with the use of a lie detector. This is everything that you need to know about this trial.

A request to use a projector to show maps of the area has been denied

Savchenko has decided to give her testimony in Russian. She’s telling them a short biography of herself.

Savchenko is accused of acting as an artillery spotter, correcting fire, for a mortar strike on a separatist checkpoint at which two Russian state TV journalists were killed. 

According to the prosecution, Savchenko scaled a 40-metre radio mast to observe the target and relay targeting information. 
Savchenko says she wounded her arm at 9:30. The investigators have not challenged this fact by the way. How could she have then, at 12:00, climbed a 40-metre mast?

I am a Mi-24 weapons system officer, I haven’t passed any fire correction training, I know the principles of artillery fire correction in only the most general terms.

Savchenko: came to the Maidan on her days off, which included February 19-21. “I tried to put a stop to it, I chatted with the soldiers, defended the Berkut officers.”

Savchenko says how she ended up in the Aidar Battalion: she made a request to join the ATO, she wasn’t allowed in, released on leave, went off herself – “to where she needed to be.”

The battalion didn’t have enough people or weapons, she stayed to train the soldiers in military operations

Savchenko: After my capture I first head of the deaths of the journalists from other Russian journalists. “But the militants said: here is the gunner”

Savchenko says she was captured over an hour before the attack, which took place at 12:00 that day. 

Savchenko says she was captured at 10:30!

Savchenko is saying how she was taken to Russia a week after her capture. Recess.

Essentially, Savchenko said that people, led by the ‘defence minister of the LNR,’ handed her over to people in masks, speaking with Russian accents, even further away.

— Pierre Vaux