Russia court convicts Ukraine pilot of complicity in murder of journalists News
Russia court convicts Ukraine pilot of complicity in murder of journalists

[JURIST] After a two-day reading of the verdict, the Donetsk municipal court in southern Russia on Tuesday sentenced a Ukrainian pilot to 22 years in prison for complicity to murder two Russian journalists and illegal border crossing. Nadezhda Savchenko has been charged with complicity in the killing of two journalists [Moscow Times report], with prosecutors accusing her of providing coordinates to the Ukrainian army for an attack in eastern Ukraine in 2014. According to her lawyers, the case against Savchenko was a “show trial,” and they argue that call log data from her cell phone disproves the charges against Savchenko [Reuters report]. Savchenko has protested her innocence, calling the proceedings against her unjust and saying that she was a Ukrainian officer who had a right to defend her country. Earlier this month, Savchenko threatened a hunger strike [JURIST report] as she continued to vocalize strong opposition towards the trial proceedings. Both rights groups and Western politicians have called for the release of the pilot, who was named a member of Ukraine’s parliament [DW report] after her arrest. Savchenko’s lawyer, Mark Feygin, has called her a prisoner of war and accused Russia of kidnapping and smuggling her across the border to try her in June 2014. The prosecution originally requested a 23-year sentence if Savchenko was found guilty. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko [BBC profile] announced that Ukraine will never recognize the verdict [BBC report], and the country is considering a prisoner exchange of Savchenko for two Russian soldiers.

Russia and Ukraine have been in conflict since the annexation of Crimea [JURIST backgrounder] in March 2014. Last month Russia filed suit [JURIST report] against Ukraine over Ukraine’s default on $3 billion in bonds. A Ukrainian official said in January that the nation plans to sue Russia [JURIST report] in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on claims of financing terrorism. In December the UN issues a report about serious human rights concerns [JURIST report] that persist in Ukraine. In August a Russian military court sentenced [JURIST report] two Ukrainian activists to substantial jail time for the charge of conspiring to commit terror attacks. Last March the EU committed to stand by its policy of refusing to recognize Crimea’s annexation [JURIST report]. Last February Russian liberal political activist Boris Nemtsov was shot in the back four times [BBC report] in the middle of busy downtown Moscow. Nemtsov was openly politically opposed to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its role in Ukraine.