Trial of Ukrainian pilot Savchenko begins in Russia

Trial of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, who's accused of killing two Russian journalists, begins on Monday

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Former Ukrainian army pilot Nadezhda Savchenko listens to her lawyer Nikolai Polozov during a verdict hearing at a court in the southern border town of Donetsk in Rostov region, Russia, in this still image taken from video March 21, 2016.

Updated Apr 18, 2016

Verdict of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko accused of complicity in the killing of two Russian journalists has begun reading by a Russian court on Monday. Russian news agencies prematurely reported the guilty verdict but journalists say no final ruling has been given yet. 

Nadezhda Savchenko, 34-year-old Ukrainian helicopter pilot, regarded as a national hero and symbol of anti-Kremlin defiance in Ukraine was captured by pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine and charged with directing mortar fire that killed two Russian state TV journalists.

Savchenko and lawyers have denied any wrongdoing saying that she's been accused of false charges and she was captured by pro-Russian rebels before Russian state TV journalists were killed and they had phone records proving it.

Kiev, holding two Russian soldiers behind the bars, was pushing for prisoner swap with Moscow which is keeping 10 more Ukrainians including a film director, Oleg Sentsov.

The trial is the latest of feud between Russia and Ukraine which was fuelled after Moscow annexed Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and declared support for pro-Russian separatist in Eastern Ukraine.

Russian prosecutors have earlier demanded Savchenko to be sentenced to 23 years in jail.

The case was decried as a “political sham” by the West and Ukraine, whose pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko has pledged to do "everything possible" to bring Savchenko back home and mooted a prisoner swap to free her.

Savchenko has been on hunger strike hoping to speed up the trial and push Russia for an exchange deal with Ukraine.

TRTWorld and agencies