Ukrainian pilot and parliament deputy Nadia Savchenko has told a Russian court she will continue her dry hunger strike after a tense hearing in which the judge postponed the verdict in her closely watched case until March 21.
A defiant Savchenko declared that she would recognize neither the court nor its verdict, before she stood on a bench inside the cage for defendants and raised her middle finger in the direction of the judge.
Savchenko emphasized that she is willing to continue the no-food, no-water hunger strike no matter what happens, saying, “You must understand that we are playing with my life; the stakes are high and I have nothing to lose.”
She also said a popular uprising similar to Ukraine’s Euromaidan movement is inevitable in Russia, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot hold on to power by means of people’s blood.”
Savchenko, 34, wore her trademark T-shirt with the Ukrainian trident symbol at the March 9 hearing in the court in the southern Russian city of Donetsk, near the border with the home country she has vowed to return to “dead or alive.”
She is accused of acting as a spotter who called in coordinates for a mortar attack in eastern Ukraine in July 2014 that caused the deaths of two Russian journalists covering the conflict between Kyiv’s forces and Russia-backed separatists.
Savchenko says she was captured by separatists in Ukraine and taken to Russia illegally by force.
Prosecutors have asked the court to sentence her to 23 years in prison and impose a fine of 100,000 rubles ($1,400). She is formally charged with murder, attempted murder, and illegally crossing Russia’s border.
In the brief hearing on March 9, Savchenko’s lawyer read out her closing statement, which she had been prevented from reading at a hearing on March 3. He then asked the court to deliver its verdict immediately.
The judge responded by saying the verdict would come only on March 21 and 22. At trials in Russia, it sometimes takes the judge more than a day to read out the lengthy verdict in the courtroom.
Savchenko, who appeared to be in good health at the hearing, has been on a dry hunger strike — refusing all food and water — since March 4.
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036
Photo: Volodymyr Parasyuk, a former Maidan activist and current lawmaker, tears away a Russian flag from the Russian Consulate during a rally in Lviv on March 9. Source: European Pressphoto Agency.