Nadiya's case: why the world calls to #FreeSavchenko
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On 9 March 2016 Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was close to death in Russian detention. The 34-y.o. POW, PACE delegate, and MP was kidnapped to Russia over 600 days ago and faces 23 years of jail. She demands to return her “dead or alive” to Ukraine and has gone two times on hunger strikes over 83 days long, and once on a dry hunger strike 6 days long, protesting being prosecuted of a crime she did not commit. Here’s what you should know about Nadiya Savchenko and why it matters.
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1. Savchenko was kidnapped from Ukraine, defending her country
Nadiya Savchenko is a Ukrainian pilot, an elected Ukrainian MP, and PACE delegate. She served as a peacekeeper in Iraq, the only woman in the brigade. After masked Russian troops occupied Crimea and Russian-sponsored militants began an armed uprising in Ukraine’s East, Nadiya volunteered to defend her country as part of the Aidar battalion.
At approximately 10:30 AM on 17 June 2014, Nadiya was kidnapped by pro-Russia militants cooperating with Russian security forces near the Ukrainian city of Luhansk and forcibly taken across the border to Russia.
#FreeSavchenko, a Ukrainian soldier forcefully abducted to Russia
2. Savchenko has been illegally detained in Russia for over 600 days
During her imprisonment she endured numerous human rights injustices, indignities and intimidations: she has been interrogated without the presence of a lawyer, denied consular visits, barred from receiving letters, books, and visitors, forced to undergo “psychiatric evaluation” at Moscow’s Serbsky Center, the notorious mental hospital that has been using punitive psychiatry against political dissidents since the Soviet era. Nadiya Savchenko has been declared a political prisoner by Russia’s human rights foundation Memorial. The European parliament has named her a prisoner of war and called for her release. You can view the same timeline with media via this link.

#FreeSavchenko – a POW held hostage in Russia

3. Savchenko is innocent; Russia's case a farce
Russia is fabricating the case and violated legal procedures. Because of that, Savchenko’s official story underwent a bizarre evolution.
Nadiya is  charged with complicity in murder. First, she was accused of directing mortar fire at a checkpoint where two Russian journalists were killed. Later, when an experiment proved distinguishing journalists from that distance was impossible, the charges were silently changed to complicity in the murder of two or more persons in a dangerous way due to ‘political hatred.’ The allegations are based on anonymous and self-serving testimonies of pro-Russia militants in Donbas and the video testimony of a Ukrainian soldier who has since admitted he was under physical and psychological pressure and said what he was told to say.
Checkpoints are notoriously the most dangerous places in war zones. The people were tragically caught in the crossfire of battle at a known checkpoint in a war zone, in Ukraine. A war Russia started and denies any involvement in. How can Russia even charge Savchenko as an accessory to murder in a war zone when she was a soldier? Russia finds ways.
Nadiya is accused of illegally crossing the border. While Nadiya from the first day stated that she was illegally abducted into Russia, she has been accused of crossing the border illegally. In an attempt to explain how she ended up in their jurisdiction, Russian officials turned Nadiya from being an asylum seeker, to being questioned as a witness in a criminal case against Ukrainian officials to “accidental detention” at a Russian hotel as a suspectThen on 24 April 2015 Russian officials slapped new charges against her for an “illegal border crossing.”
“I was taken to Russia against my will handcuffed and with a bag over my head.” – N. Savchenko

#FreeSavchenko – stop the legal farce
4. Savchenko faces 23 years of prison despite evidence of innocence
Russia is not accepting evidence of Savchenko’s innocence
The call history from her phone. At the time of the deaths of the Russian journalists, Nadiya had already been for several hours in central Luhansk, where she had been taken immediately following her capture. This video reconstructs events of 17 June 2014.
Analysis of footage. A representative of Institute of Astronomy of Moscow State University Olga Vozyakova proved that due to the angles of the shadows on the video of Savchenko’s kidnapping, it happened around 10:40 AM with a 20 minute error. The shelling happened at 11:40, which means Savchenko has an alibi.
Several witnesses saw Nadiya on the day that she was taken into captivity. Savchenko had been captured prior to the time that the Russian journalists were killed.
Unclimbable tower. Nadiya could not correct fire from the tower she was supposedly situated on because photos and videos from a drone prove that it is impossible to climb. Besides, an expert of the Ukrainian mobile operator MTS Andriy Ivanov confirms that the mobile network wasn’t working that day in the warzone, so Nadiya couldn’t make phone calls to an MTS number to correct the fire.
The Russian court has refused to add all this evidence to the criminal case.

#FreeSavchenko – demand justice for an innocent woman

5. Russia is violating international law
What right does Russia have to arrest or try a Ukrainian citizen for alleged crimes committed not on its territory, but on the territory of Ukraine, in the first place? None. Especially if it is not a party to the war in Ukraine, as it repeatedly claims.
  1. Nadiya’s case is a blatant violation of international law. Russian courts have no jurisdiction over Ukrainian citizens on Ukrainian soil. Is Russia acknowledging that it is in charge of military operations there, i.e. that it is occupying Ukraine? No, so her detention is illegal.
  2. Nadiya is a POW, according to the Geneva convention, and cannot be charged with a criminal offense at all: she is answerable to international justice under the laws of war.
  3. According to the Second Minsk agreements between Russia and Ukraine, all parties agreed that all hostages be released. There were no exceptions. Yet Russia refuses to honor its agreement.
  4. Nadiya has diplomatic immunity as a PACE delegate and as a member of Ukraine’s Parliament. The international community has repeatedly called to release Savchenko.

But that’s nothing new for Russia, which annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in defiance of all international laws and continues to wage a brutal proxy war in Ukraine’s Donbas.
#FreeSavchenko – Russia must not be allowed to trample international law
6. Savchenko bravely stands up for freedom for Ukraine and Russia
During her imprisonment, Savchenko held two hunger strikes. The first one lasted for 83 days, Nadiya lost 25 kilos of weight. It is now over 83 days of her second hunger strike and 4th day of dry hunger strike. With them, Nadiya Savchenko stood up to Putin’s corrupt regime. Protesting against bizarre charges and Soviet-style justice in Russia, Nadiya Savchenko’s big heart and unbreakable spirit has made her a symbol of Ukraine’s strength and independence, standing up to a brutal Russian invasion.
While Putin’s Russia is sliding into fascism, one of the few voices that speaks out against the repressions is that of a starved woman behind bars and under the surveillance of 10 guards. Speaking at the Basmanny court on 17 April 2015, Nadiya said: “You are living as if it’s the times of KGB repression. I am still a free person, even behind these bars. In fact, I am the only free person here. I have the right to speak.”
 In 2015 Savchenko had her book “It’s a strong name, Hope” published. The book describes what Nadiya went through while defending Ukraine from Russia’s hybrid army, being kidnapped and imprisonedinn. In a speech that Nadiya prepared for her last word at the court she names Putin as a tyrant and Russia as a Prison of the Peoples. She stresses that there’s no fair court in Russia, and she will not make any appeals. Nadiya claimed that Russia would be forced to return her back home either dead or alive.

#FreeSavchenko – because Russians and Ukrainians deserve to live in a democratic society
7. There are at least 20 other Ukrainians subjected to the same ordeals
Nadiya Savchenko is the most well-known among over 20 Ukrainian political prisoners held as hostages by the Kremlin, advocated for by the #LetMyPeopleGo campaign. Some of them, like filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, have been sentenced to decades of prison. Many have been brutally tortured into confessing of crimes they didn’t commit.
Two things unites them all – their innocence and how they are being used as an instrument in Putin’s undeclared war against Ukraine. To make the Russian population believe that Russia is under threat from Ukraine and not the other way around, these hostages are being accused of crimes against the Russian population for the cameras, fueling the state-controled propaganda machine.
With trumped up charges, an untrustworthy judicial system, and continued defiance of international laws and agreements, the only way to free Nadiya Savchenko and other Ukrainian political prisoners is to exert political pressure on the Kremlin – loudly, clearly and often. Without such constant public pressure, the Kremlin will hold out and be evasive as long as it can. It also knows that in any future talks/press conferences etc. about Ukraine, Nadiya’s case will now inevitably come up. And if Nadiya is released, it will be a trigger for the other political prisoners held by the Kremlin.

#FreeSavchenko and other political prisoners #LetMyPeopleGo 
8. So be Nadiya’s voice, demand for Russia to #FreeSavchenko
The Kremlin thought Nadiya would have broken by now and just plead guilty. That’s why they go to lentgths to fabricate the case and have avoided putting her on trial for a whole year. But she not only resists pressure, she also stands up for freedom and justice for Ukraine and Russia, challenging Putin with the price of her life.
We are her voice.  We don’t have to sit by and watch Russia violate international law and Nadiya’s human rights – we can raise our voices to tell the world about her, to raise awareness of her case so decision makers and world leaders can use their voices to put pressure on Putin.
And if we do nothing, say nothing, then we not only let her down. We let a criminal regime get away with its bullying. And when no one stands up to aggressive bullies, they continue their aggression. We know this from history. Where does it stop?

On 9 March 2016, join the #FreeSavchenko campaign
Here are six ways you can help advocate for Nadiya’s release:
  1. Share this article via the buttons below
  2. Sign up for the fb event, keep track of the news
  3. Sign the petition to world leaders to #FreeSavchenko
  4. Tweet #FreeSavchenko, take part in the twitter storm (clickable tweets here)
  5. Organize a rally in your town (see existing rallies here)
  6. Reach out to your media following our instructions.

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