Thousands of people, along with three Nobel Prize laureates have gathered to sign a petition demanding European leaders to secure the release of a hunger-striking Ukrainian pilot from a Russian jail.
34-year-old Nadiya Savchenko is on trial for allegedly being responsible for the death of two Russian journalists in Ukraine. If found guilty, she faces up to 23 years in prison.
She has denied all charges and since her hearing adjourned Thursday before she had the chance to make her final statement, she decided to go on a hunger strike, refusing to eat or drink anything.
Savchenko’s case is considered as a symbol of resistance to what Kiev’s pro-Western leaders view as Russia’s aggression in the eastern industrial hinterland of the former Soviet state.
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside Russia’s diplomatic mission in Kiev to demand her repatriation to Ukraine. The protesters threw eggs to the Russian embassy and smashed windows of at least one diplomatic car.
Savchenko’s fate has also arouse concern among Western governments and leading human rights figures.
The Nobel prize winners in literature Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich, Austria’s Elfriede Jelinek and the Lithuanian-American Tomas Venclova told European leaders that Savchenko’s life and the bloc’s credibility were at stake.
"Our ability to save her life will test the effectiveness of international diplomacy and our commitment to European values," said an open letter posted on the Internet on Sunday and signed by more than 5,000 people by early Monday.
Savchenko was "kidnapped and imprisoned for more than twenty months in the Russian Federation," the letter said.
"The Russian authorities have made a mockery of civil rights, international law, and their own Constitution. They show disdain for the international community and the Minsk Protocol that aims to bring an end to the 23-month war.”
Russian complainants argue that Savchenko was involved in the killing of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 as an Ukrainian battalion volunteer.
She does not accept any involvement and says she was kidnapped and smuggled into Russia.
Her refusal to drink water makes her supporters worried since it may damage her health irreparably or not live long enough to attend the next hearing on Wednesday.
The separatist war has caused 9,100 people to die since pro-Russian insurgents angered by the ouster of Ukraine’s Moscow-backed leadership revolted against the Kiev authorities in April 2014.
Russia refuses Ukrainian and Western charges of provacating and supporting the unrest.