Saturday, August 22, 2015

Russia Is Using Jailed Ukrainian Pilot As A Pawn In Its Game With The West

LONDON, England -- Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was captured by separatists in the east of the country in June last year.

As Nadiya Savchenko appears in court on charges of murdering journalists, her lawyer argues that evidence proving her innocence is being wilfully ignored.

The Moscow-backed militia battalion Zarya handed her over to Russian special services, to use her as a propaganda tool against the new government in Kiev.

Savchenko will appear in court this week for a preliminary hearing on fabricated charges of killing two journalists, Anton Voloshin and Igor Korneliuk, from Russian state television.

Yet the pair died from artillery shelling two hours after Savchenko’s capture.

For a year, a Russian investigative team did its best to prove that Savchenko had helped those who shot the journalists by phoning in their location.

However their arguments crumbled after her mobile phone records revealed that she was not in the same place as the journalists at the time - she had in fact been captured two hours earlier.

There is more evidence.

A video taken when Savchenko was picked up on 17 June 2014 was published on social media by one of the separatists.

Expert analysis of factors such as the direction of sun light and shadows in the video again proves that her arrest took place earlier, and she had already been questioned by separatists’ militia when the journalists were killed.

But in Russia political goals are not sacrificed for the sake of a fair trial and justice.

With the condonance of the Kremlin, the investigators and the court have ignored all the objective evidence of Savchenko’s innocence and proceeded to accuse her of complicity in the murder.

Even Vladimir Putin himself has not criticised the prosecution.

Asked about the case at his annual press conference in December 2014, the president responded, clearly irritated, that the trial would “show the truth”.

The Kremlin aims to use the Savchenko case for its own propaganda.

Russian authorities want to show that Ukraine’s government, which it calls a “military junta”, is ideologically obsessed with nationalism and Russophobia.

Savchenko is being offered as an example of a cynical Ukrainian officer obsessed with murdering civilians in the east.

Yet the evidence we have gathered not only proves her innocence, but we have also managed to organise a worldwide campaign in her support.

Although Putin is well aware of Savchenko’s innocence, after she was elected as an MP and made a delegate to the parliamentary assemblyof the Council of Europe (Pace) the Kremlin has decided to play a diplomatic game with the west – using her as a pawn.

The question of her release has been raised directly at the Normandy talks in Minsk in March; at a meeting between Putin and John Kerry, the US secretary of State, in Sochi; as well as at many other formal and informal high-level talks between the west and Russia.

But still the Kremlin has not denounced the prosecution.

This is not only to appear tough and determined to act without regard for international law, but also for purely utilitarian reasons.

The Russian authorities are looking for a way to maximise the benefits of releasing Savchenko in exchange for political rewards: whether these involve concessions from the west over Crimea or the status of Ukraine, or even agreements on Moscow’s position as a regional leader in the post-Soviet space.

Savchenko is not the Kremlin’s only trump card in this game.

Several other Ukrainians have been captured by Russian authorities.

Yet she has a symbolic importance as the face of Ukraine’s rebellion against Russia.

The outcome of her case will influence Ukraine’s success in the fight against pro-Russian separatists as the rescue one of its soldiers, especially a woman, is a matter of principle for Kiev.

It demonstrates Ukraine’s sovereignty, free from paternalistic influence of Moscow.

Her trial is very likely to start in the Russian town of Donetsk in late August, a place with the same name as a separatist-held city in Ukraine.

Being close to the border with the so-called People’s Republic of Luhansk, the Russian Donetsk is a kind of a transit point for troops to Donbass.

Russian prosecutors aim to move the trial out of Moscow to make it more difficult for the press and international observers to attend, despite the fact that Donetsk is dangerous for Savchenko, her family and her lawyers.

Western appeals for common sense on Savchenko’s case have been ignored by the Russian authorities.

Her treatment testifies to the Kremlin’s irrationality and brutality, on the eve of a UN general assembly meeting and a tribunal on the fate of airline MH17, as well as its determination to escalate the confrontation with the west.

Despite all this, we are confident that Savchenko will be released, eventually.

It won’t be the result of a fair trial as there is no rule of law in Putin’s Russia and no independence of the judicial system.

Rather, it will be because of manoeuvres in the political game – and pressure on Moscow.

One way the Savchenko situation could be resolved would be by exchanging her for members of the Russian special forces captured in Ukraine.

Another possibility is that a united western condemnation, as well as sanctions and other restrictive measures, will put sufficient pressure on Russian authorities to secure her release.

The UK, which initially took a back seat in this case, has recently become much more active.

As Savchenko’s legal team, we would very much like to see more diplomatic involvement of London in her release.

Source: The Guardian

1 comment:

Igor Skakovsky said...

Donetsk, Russia is so close to Ukrainian boarder that Ukraine could train some volonters for Savchenko's jail brake out. The reason for such actions is obvious, it is unlawful arrest and illegal trial. world will applaud. Like people in Russia would say "С волками жить по влчьи выть" that mean:"To live with wolves one must howl like a wolves".