Ukraine Calls on Russia to Free Hunger-striking Helicopter Pilot

VOA News

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called on Russia to free a Ukrainian military helicopter pilot who is accused of killing two Russian journalists in a mortar attack.

Poroshenko posted video on social media Wednesday, calling the trial of Nadiya Savchenko, who has been refusing food and water since last week, a «farce» conducted in a «kangaroo court.»

Savchenko’s trial resumed on Wednesday in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, where the judge announced Savchenko will be sentenced on March 21-22.

Prosecutors have asked the court to sentence her to 23 years in prison.

Ukraine says Savchenko was kidnapped by the Russians and should be treated as a prisoner of war. Her case inspired some 2,000 Ukrainians to rally in her defense in Kyiv on Sunday.

On Tuesday, U.S. vice president Joe Biden issued a statement on her behalf, calling on Russia to release her immediately.

Savchenko on Wednesday echoed Poroshenko’s words in court, calling the proceedings a farce and reminding officials, «we are playing with my life. The stakes are high and I have nothing to lose.»

She punctuated her contemptuous words by raising her middle finger (in a vulgar gesture).

Savchenko is accused of aiding in a June 2014 mortar attack on Ukraine’s Luhansk region, where a shell killed two Russian television reporters.