In June 2014, Lt. Savchenko was captured by armed terrorists backed by the Russian Federation in Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine. She was then violently and forcibly removed from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
On 9 July 2014, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation announced that charges have been laid against Savchenko for alleged “complicity in the group killing of two or more people carrying out official activities in a publicly hazardous manner for motives of political hatred” (under Article 33, part 5 and Article 105, part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
Since her illegal detention, Savchenko has been sent for forced psychiatric evaluations, and it has been difficult for her to secure meetings with lawyers, her family, and representatives of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On 26 October 2014, Savchenko was elected a Member of Ukraine’s Parliament; Ukraine’s Parliament subsequently elected Savchenko a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
On 13 December 2014, Savchenko began a hunger strike in protest of her illegal detention. In early January 2015, it was reported that Savchenko was moved to solitary confinement.
On 9 January, US State Department spokesperson J. Psaki stated, “We’re deeply concerned by reports that Russia has moved Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko to solitary confinement.[…]. We call for her immediate release as well as other Ukrainian hostages held by Russia.”
European Parliament, Amnesty International and other international organizations have called on Russia to release Savchenko. On 12 January, 2015, Nadiya Savchenko stated in a letter that her spirit will not be broken and that she will not end her hunger strike, “Until the day I return to Ukraine or until the last day of my life in Russia.”
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, stated in a petition to PACE President Anne Brasseur, “The investigators have provided no evidence to back the charges laid against her of implication in the deaths of a Russian journalist and sound engineer who died on June 17 after being caught in shellfire while travelling close to militants of the self-proclaimed Luhansk people’s republic. The defence, in contrast, have unassailable evidence which demonstrates that Ms Savchenko was nowhere near the place where the two Russians were killed.”
On 16 January, PACE President Anne Brasseur stated that one of the elements of the Minsk Agreements (September 2014), to which the Russian Federation is a signatory, was the immediate release of all hostages and illegally held persons. “I call for their immediate release, and amongst these persons I include the pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who is currently held by the Russian authorities. Ms Savchenko has now been appointed to the Ukrainian delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly and there are many grounds for her release, not least humanitarian, as her health continues to deteriorate as a result of her hunger strike.”
On 20 January, 2015, Nadiya Savchenko’s sister, Vira, was finally allowed to see her sister. After meeting with Nadiya, Vira stated, “She’s gotten very thin. But she is not going to stop her hunger strike. She will stop it only on the territory of Ukraine, or, when she will be freed.”
Vira Savchenko stated that the authorities who continue to illegally imprison Savchenko, deprive her of elementary things, such as good-quality drinking water.
On 28 January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) suspended the voting rights, its right to be represented in PACE’s leading bodies, until April 2015, and suspended the right of its Russian members to be appointed rapporteur, observe elections or to represent the Assembly in external bodies or other Council of Europe bodies, “as a clear expression of condemnation of continuing grave violations of international law in respect of Ukraine by Russia.” PACE called on Russian authorities to release Nadia Savchenko “within 24 hours and to ensure her return to Ukraine or to hand her over to a third country.”
On 29 January, Savchenko’s lawyer, I. Novikov, stated that a new charge has been filed against Savchenko – illegally crossing the border. Savchenko was also transferred to Moscow’s infamous Matrosskaya Tishina detention center (where anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was killed in 2009), because of what “Novikov cited medical personnel as saying was abrupt weight loss.”
On 25 February, a Moscow City Court judge rejected Nadiya Savchenko’s appeal against her illegal detention, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported. “As well as the flagrant irregularities of this case, and fact that Savchenko has a provable alibi, Judge Andrei Mokhov also ignored clear signs that Savchenko is gravely weakened and may indeed not live to her next hearing. Now into her 75th day of hunger strike, she could be seen via the video link with her cell either lying down or leaning her head on her arms.”
On 25 February, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs R. Nicholson stated, “Today marks the 75th day of Nadiya Savchenko’s hunger strike to protest her unlawful detention by the Russian authorities. Canada unequivocally condemns Ms. Savchenko’s illegal incarceration and is concerned by reports of her declining health. We call on Russia to immediately end her detention and return her to Ukraine. Russia and the separatists in eastern Ukraine must abide by the commitments made in Minsk on February 12 and proceed with the release and exchange of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons.” The United States and the European Union also called on Russia to release Savchenko.
On 2 March, Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko awarded Nadiya Savchenko the title Hero of Ukraine, and Ukraine’s parliament adopted a resolution asking Savchenko to stop her hunger strike.
On 4 March, a Russian court rejected Savchenko’s appeal for release. On 5 March, Nadiya Savchenko’s lawyer confirmed that she has partially halted her hunger strike, which was in its 83rd day. In a handwritten letter posted on the website of the Batkivshchyna party, Savchenko wrote that she will drink bouillon, and thanked her supporters.
On 16 April, KHPG stated that that “Nadiya Savchenko has been visited by Russian MPs trying to persuade her to ‘confess’, be convicted and then – supposedly – pardoned. There seems no chance that she, Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko [Ukrainian citizens also illegally imprisoned in the Russian Federation] will agree, but every reason for Moscow to want to avoid the lawlessness of each of these cases on public trial. It is no accident that Savchenko’s investigators tried to get the trial held behind closed doors. They have a lot to hide. […]Vira Savchenko, Nadiya’s sister explained on Wednesday that, according to her sister’s lawyers, there have recently been a number of visitations from deputies of Russia’s State Duma. The MPs do not name themselves […]. The message they are passing on is that Nadiya should admit guilt, get a sentence and then be pardoned. This supposedly is needed to reconcile Ukraine with Russia.”
Nadiya Savchenko’s mother, Maria Savchenko, is “on a global campaign seeking support from world leaders to pressure President Vladimir Putin to free her daughter,” the Associated Press reported on 21 April. She began her campaign in Germany, and met with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights I. Simonovic. “I’m a desperate mother who is ready to travel the globe to make everything possible that my message be heard. […]I call upon all international leaders to help me to bring my daughter back home,” Maria Savchenko stated in an interview.
In a phone call with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko “urged the UN Secretary-General to take measures for the liberation of Nadiya Savchenko […] The President has emphasized that all hostages in Donbas should be liberated.”
Last week, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power met with Maria Savchenko, mother of Nadiya Savchenko. Power stated, “It has now been 307 days since Nadiya Savchenko was abducted in eastern Ukraine and smuggled against her will into Russia. I was very moved to hear Maria talk about Nadiya and can only imagine how painful it must be to see one’s daughter’s health deteriorate in prison, with no clear idea about when she might be freed. The United States is committed to working to secure her daughter’s release, just as we also remain dedicated to securing the release of all of those Ukrainians illegally held by the separatists and Russia.”