The mother of a Ukrainian helicopter pilot imprisoned in Russia is on
a global campaign seeking support from world leaders to pressure
President Vladimir Putin to free her daughter.
Maria Shavchenko said in an interview with The Associated Press
on Monday (local time) that her daughter is a political prisoner and
Russian prosecutors have provided “no evidence” that she provided
guidance for a mortar attack that killed two Russian state TV
journalists at a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine, as Moscow claims.
Ukrainian jailed military officer Nadezhda Savchenko attends a court hearing in Moscow, March 26, 2015. Photo / AP
Savchenko – nicknamed “Nadiya” – was captured by a pro-Russian militia
and has been in Russian custody since June 2014 on charges that she was
involved in the attack that killed the two Russian journalists who were
covering the war between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists
in eastern Ukraine. At the time of the attack, the 33-year-old pilot was
serving with the Aidar volunteer battalion that was fighting alongside
government forces near the eastern city of Luhansk.
Russia’s UN Mission, asked to comment on Mrs. Shavchenko’s
claims and criticism, said: “She is accused of a serious crime as an
accomplice in the killing of two Russian journalists.”
Shavchenko launched her global campaign in Germany, where she pleaded
for help from lawmakers. New York is her second stop and she will meet
Tuesday with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan
Simonovic. She attended a rally Sunday near Russia’s UN Mission where
about 100 people signed a petition to presidential candidate Hillary
Clinton asking for her assistance to get Nadiya released. She said her
next stop will be Paris and then all European countries.
desperate mother who is ready to travel the globe to make everything
possible that my message be heard,” said Mrs Shavchenko, who is 78. “I
call upon all international leaders to help me to bring my daughter back
She said she wrote Putin a letter saying, “I know that
you have children and you have a mother. Well, I am a mother and you
should have at least one per cent of compassion to my girl who is now in
prison under absolutely artificial pretexts.”
called Putin “a terrible person” who acts like the professional KGB
officer that he was, and accused him of holding Nadiya as a hostage to
“exchange for some favors” at a future date.
Nadiya spent 83 days
on a hunger strike to protest her detention, but under pressure from
her family and supporters she started drinking milk and eating cheese in
March. Though her weight has dropped from 78 kilograms (172 pounds) to
53 kilograms (117 pounds), her Russian lawyer, Mark Feygin, who saw her
last week, said she is in much better physical condition than she was a
few months ago.
Feygin, who is traveling with Mrs. Shavchenko,
said Nadiya’s preliminary trial has been going on in Moscow and her
defence team expects that by the end of the summer the court will
present its verdict. He said he has tried unsuccessfully to get the
charges against her dropped for lack of evidence, including presenting
cellphone records showing “she was kidnapped two hours before the
journalists were killed.”
Since her arrest, Nadiya has been
elected as a deputy in Ukraine’s Parliament and is a delegate to the
Council of Europe, giving her diplomatic immunity, “but everything is
ignored by Russian justice,” he said.
Feygin said the only option left for him, as her lawyer, is to call her a “prisoner of war”.