Mark Feygin and Nadiya Savchenko during court hearings in Rostov, Russia, November 2015. (Photo source: Sputnik)
On 3 February, the court in Donetsk, Russia decided to allow Savchenko case investigator Dmitriy Manshin to testify. Ukraine’s parliament has put Manshin on the so-called “Savchenko list,” a list of persons involved in the kidnapping and unlawful detention of Savchenko as well as fabricating the case against her. Manshin is also named by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office in the unlawful persecution of Savchenko.
Earlier, on 1 February, the Russian court denied calling two other important witnesses: Pavel Karpov and Valeriy Bolotov. Karpov was an assistant to Vladislav Surkov, Russia’s PR master and Vladimir Putin aide. According to Savchenko’s lawyers, Karpov was in charge of transporting her from Ukraine to Russian territory. Bolotov was the leader of the self-proclaimed separatist “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR) prior to Ihor Plotnitskiy.
Savchenko’s defense team possesses the transcript of a critical phone conversation between Karpov and Bolotov which prove they were both in charge of capturing Ukrainian pilot.
Euromaidan Press spoke to Nadiya’s lawyer Mark Feygin shortly after Monday’s hearings.
Why did the court refuse to interrogate Karpov and Bolotov, who are such important witnesses in Savchenko’s case?
They did it for the same reason that they’ve been denying defense petitions at previous hearings. The court doesn’t want to give the defense any opportunity to ask questions which would reveal these persons’ (Karpov and Bolotov – Ed.) involvement in kidnapping Savchenko from the territory of Luhansk and transporting her to Russia.
Their goal is to have as little evidence as possible – either documentary evidence or witness testimony – that can prove Savchenko’s innocence. Keeping all significant evidence of her innocence out of the proceedings allows the court to base its guilty verdict on the absence of exculpatory evidence.
This is the usual practice by a court that suffers from a fundamental bias against an accused.
The Russian court refused to interrogate important witnesses from Ukraine. Will you try again?
Ukrainian witnesses that have been interrogated already have given more than enough proof of Savchenko’s innocence. New ones would hardly add anything new. We are unlikely to present a large number of witnesses at this point.
You have mentioned on Twitter that you expect the prosecution to bring in fake witnesses. Why?
According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, after the defense presentation of evidence, the prosecution has the right to present additional evidence.
According to the indictment, Savchenko was positioning artillery fire using binoculars while sitting atop a 35meter-high derrick (belonging to the Ukrtransnafta Company – Ed.) atop which she allegedly climbed.
(Earlier the lawyers explained that at that moment Savchenko had been shot through the arm and was carrying binoculars, belay, a backpack and a gun. One of the witnesses testified that due to the danger of vandalism, the steps of the derrick start at a height of 7 m, which means one needs a ladder to be able to climb it. – Ed.)
The prosecution paraded a row of witnesses, mostly Luhansk separatists, to testify to the time when Savchenko was captured. Some of them claim she admitted to positioning artillery fire on that day. But no witness has claimed to have seen her on the derrick, which is the only point in the area from which one could see the road police checkpoint of the town Metalist (The shelling of this checkpoint resulted in deaths of two Russian journalists. Savchenko is being tried for their murder. – Ed.).
This means that at the very least, her guilt has not been proved. This is sufficient grounds to end the prosecution’s case. And that’s why the prosecution will bring a new witness during its turn to present additional evidence.
What do you expect from these “fake witnesses”?
Their witnesses usually seem like thugs. I can imagine this person will confess to trying to help her climb up the derrick on that day.
This derrick was inaccessible to the separatists at the time because active military battles were taking place along the demarcation line. Therefore, this potential witness can only be some local resident uninvolved in the fighting.
Bringing forward such a witness is very dangerous to the prosecution because our questions will expose those lies. This is probably the only thing that the prosecution fears.
Do you expect any other “tricks” from the prosecution or the court?
They will probably try to keep the status quo: to allow the court to make its determination based on existing facts, even though all of the accusations are purely conjecture.
The recent address of the PACE (Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe, dedicated to human rights and the rule of law–Ed.) leadership was very pro-Savchenko. Is this just a populist move on the part of the new leadership?
PACE has been consistent in their position regarding the Savchenko case. Remember that last year PACE issued a resolution demanding Savchenko’s release within 2 hours. It is not just PR, it is a principled position regarding one of their own delegates.
If they can’t even protect one of their members, how can they solve any of the other numerous problems that face Europe? Savchenko’s case is a question of this body adhering to its own basic principles. That’s why they can’t refuse to fight for her release. I think it’s all about the principles, which are much more important.
Will Ukraine and Russia agree on exchanging Savchenko with Aleksandrov and Erofeev (Russian special forces captured by Ukraine-Ed.)?
I think the Ukrainian side will have many opportunities to declare Savchenko’s guilty and then not execute the declaration. It’s a technical question. You can promise anything… but Savchenko won’t be going to jail. There are many procedural opportunities that allow transferring Savchenko to Ukraine and then keeping her from being sentenced.
I think this option will be taken by default. Russian authorities will likely do the same regarding the captured Russian GRU officers, Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Evgeniy Erofeev, who can be transferred to Russia to serve their sentences.
Then why is Savchenko on hunger strike?
Because that is her personal decision. She believes this way she is speeding up the exchange process. I think her position is wrong, but Savchenko is someone who doesn’t always listen to the points of view of people around her. If she has decided something, then that’s it. It’s in her nature.
Edited by: Paula Chertok
Tags: Donbas, Feygin, GRU (Russian Military Main Intelligence Directorate), interview, kidnapping, LNR ("Luhansk People's Republic"), Luhansk, militants, Nadiya Savchenko, PACE, Political prisoners, political prosecution, prisoner exchange, prisoners of war (POWs), Russia, Russian court, Savchenko, trial, war in Donbas (2014-present)