WARRENSBURG, Missouri — Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko was awarded the title ‘Hero of Ukraine’ after a two-month hunger strike in a Russian jail. Savchenko was held on charges of aiding and the killing of two Russian journalists—the 33-year-old pilot claims she is innocent. She was captured by pro-Russian forces while fighting in a volunteer battalion in east Ukraine last June. Savchenko is also being accused of providing the coordinates of two Russian journalists that were killed by a mortar attack. If she is convicted, she faces up to 20 years in jail.
Savchenko’s story is being heard around the world. She rejected Crimean Tatar leader’s call to end her hunger strike that started on December 13, 2014. Massive crowds rallied for her release in Kyiv last week and she is being called the ‘Hero of Ukraine’—refusing not only food but glucose drips.
According to Euro News, a member of the Kremlin’s rights council has said on Friday that Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot on a hunger strike in a Russian prison, could “die within days.” Yelena Masyuk has said that the health of the 33-year-old Ukrainian fighter pilot has “sharply deteriorated.”
After lasting several weeks in the Russian jail, her health has seriously deteriorated and the European Parliament has stepped in proposing to introduce a ‘Savchenko list.’ The list is similar to the ‘Magnitsky list’ in the U.S. which documents the penalties for the people involved in the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison after investigating fraud involving Russian tax officials.
Others also made an effort to stop her hunger strike. Leaders, politicians, activists and even her own mother have called her and begged her to stop. UK Today reported a letter published by her lawyer in which Savchenko says: “I’ve not been on hunger strike for so long, but I will stay on it as long as necessary so that my people have the right to be Ukrainians in Ukrainian lands.”
The pilot even rejected a call from Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, who attempted to appeal to her by saying, “daughter, there is no sense in continuing the hunger strike. Russia is not a country where humane principles exist.” The 71-year-old former Soviet dissident participated in a 303-day hunger strike, the longest in the history of Soviet human rights movements, in which he was force-fed.
On February 12, 2015 the NY Times reported that the leaders in Minsk reached a broad agreement for a cease-fire and weapons pullback in eastern Ukraine. Within this agreement, there was also a proviso for Savchenko’s release. President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine made winning the pilot’s freedom a priority and announced the condition at a news conference and said there was an understanding that she would be freed.
– Eastin Shipman