Maryna Poroshenko, the wife of the president of Ukraine, has appealed to Michelle Obama, the wife of the president of the US, to join the international campaign for the release and return home of Ukrainians illegally imprisoned in Russia.
“Dear Michelle, I hope that your voice not only joins the international campaign for the release and return home of Nadiya Savchenko but also gives new impetus for the release of the remaining Ukrainian citizens, including Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasyev, Ahtem Chiygoz and other pawns of Russia’s punitive machine,” she wrote in a letter quoted by the president’s press service.
Mrs. Poroshenko added that Nadiya Savchenko “standing side-by-side with American soldiers risked her life for the restoration of democracy and order in Iraq and, like hundreds of American women, has dedicated her life to the defense of her homeland. However, while defending the independence and freedom of the Ukrainian state, in June 2014, she was actually kidnapped from Ukrainian territory and imprisoned in Russia.”
Mrs. Poroshenko also pointed out that Savchenko’s name was among the names of the twenty women political prisoners and prisoners of conscience listed in the “Free the 20 Campaign” that was initiated by the US government in September 2015 in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (a blueprint for advancing women’s rights around the world).
On March 21, the Russian court in Donetsk, in Russia’s Rostov Oblast, began reading the verdict for Nadiya Savchenko, who is being accused in Russia of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists near Luhansk in the summer of 2014. Savchenko fully denies any guilt. The reading of the judgment is expected to take two days, March 21-22. Earlier, the state prosecution demanded that Savchenko be sentenced to 23 years in prison, while her defense asked for her full exoneration. To protest her imprisonment, Savchenko went on a seven-day dry hunger strike. She began taking liquids on March 10, but said that she may go on a dry hunger strike again after the verdict is announced.
Near the courthouse a demonstration by young people carrying signs “they fought for freedom of speech” is taking place.
In Donetsk itself, police are taking unprecedented security measures. Snipers are positioned on the roofs, police are checking attics and basements, and enhanced police patrols are monitoring the streets.