Savchenko denied access to Ukrainian doctors over obscene behavior in court – Lavrov

Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko charged with involvement in the murder of Russian journalists in Donbass at a hearing at the Donetsk City Court in the Rostov Region © Sergey Pivovarov
Ukrainian doctors were denied access to military pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, who is on trial in Russia over the killing of journalists in Donbass, due to disruptive behavior in court, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, told his Ukrainian counterpart.

Lavrov told Ukrainian FM Pavlo Klimkin in a phone conversation that “the Russian side undertook steps in order to meet the request for a visit of Savchenko by Ukrainian doctors as an exception, based on the principles of humanism,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“However, Savchenko’s defiance and abusive comments towards the court on March 9 changed the situation, making such a visit impossible. As a result, the court decided to cancel all visits to the defendant until the announcement of the sentence on March 21,” the ministry said.

In a call initiated by the Ukrainian side, Lavrov also commented on the health of Savchenko, who has been on a “dry hunger strike,” rejecting both food and water, in recent days.

The Ukrainian pilot’s condition “gives no grounds for concerns,” the Russian FM said, according to the statement. “Savchenko feels fine. She exercises. She is under constant surveillance by Russian doctors.”

On Wednesday, Savchenko had the opportunity to deliver her final statement in a Russian court, which is located in the town of Donetsk not far from the Ukrainian border. When given the chance to speak, however, she climbed onto a bench, raised her middle finger, and directed the obscene gesture towards the judge and prosecution.

“Here’s my final word,” the 34-year-old said, before starting to sing the Ukrainian national anthem with the help of her mother and sister, who were sitting in the public benches.

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She also promised to continue her “dry hunger strike,” which she began last Thursday, if the verdict and sentence take longer than a week to deliver.  

Savchenko has previously gone on long hunger strikes during the trial, but she has never refused to take water before.

According to the judge, the verdict is to be delivered on March 21 and 22, with the defendant responding, “maybe I will live that long.”

“Remember, we are playing with my life. And I will win. The stakes are high and I have nothing to lose,” Savchenko told the court.

She also predicted that “there will be a Maidan in Russia,” referring to the 2013-14 protests that led to the overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine.

On March 3, the prosecution demanded a 23-year prison term for Savchenko for her part in the death of two journalists from Russian public broadcaster VGTRK in shelling that took place in Ukraine’s Lugansk Region in June of 2014.

It is believed that she was fighting in a pro-Kiev volunteer battalion against the self-defense forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, which refuse to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities in the capital.

According to the prosecution, she reported the location of the Russian journalists to Ukrainian troops, which then shelled the area, killing the two reporters and other civilians.

Savchenko has denied all accusations against her and demanded to be released from custody.

Savchenko’s lawyer, Nikolay Polozov, claims that her health has significantly deteriorated over the past few days, saying she has a fever of 38°Celsius (100.4°F).

The defense insisted that they won’t be able to talk Savchenko into ending her “dry hunger strike” unless she is set free immediately or provided a guarantee of release.

“She will either be force-fed or die,” Polozov said, as cited by Reuters.

The lawyers also said they had been informed that permission would not be granted to Savchenko’s relatives, the Ukrainian doctors, or diplomats to visit the accused in her cell before March 21.