: Savchenko Trial: Russian lawyer reveals hopes and fears for Ukrainian pilot
News17:30 Mar. 19, 2016

Savchenko Trial: Russian lawyer reveals hopes and fears for Ukrainian pilot

Savchenko has transformed into a symbol of resistance against the Kremlin's war in Ukraine

In Moscow the lawyer of detained Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko is revealing details of a private conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Illya Novikov says the Ukrainian government is doing everything in its power to bring Russia to release Savchenko as well as 30 other illegally detained prisoners.

Read also Ukraine's Justice Ministry asks Russia to extradite Ukrainians held in Russian jails

"To send in the army and fight everyone off is not realistic. On the diplomatic level you can't do more if the side which is detaining is not agreeing. We have a good dialogue with Ukraine's foreign ministry. I can't say that they're not doing enough. I know where the talks on Savchenko are now and I know they can't go any further," lawyer Illya Novikov says.

Novikov believes the outpour of international support for Savchenko is helping the ongoing negotiations to free her. A so-called 'Savchenko list' is reportedly already being prepared by US government officials. Anyone linked to the pilot's illegal detention would be placed on a blacklist.

Read also Kremlin Ukrainian Prisoners: Sentsov and Kolchenko convoyed to eastern Russia

The pilot's defense team is close to ruling out a prisoner exchange which would see Savchenko swapped for two Russians captured in eastern Ukraine last year.

After being caught Russian nationals Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev said they were sent as part of a Special Forces team to fight alongside separatist forces in the Donbas while on active military duty. Moscow claimed both men had quit the army before being captured. Novikov thinks it unlikely they will return home anytime soon.

Watch also Fighting for the rights of Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia

"A prisoner swap suggests both sides are interested in getting something in return. Based on the information that I have, I'm not convinced Russia wants to get its citizens Yerofeyev and Alexandrov back. If the prisoner swap does happen it will be further proof that Russia is no longer able to detain Savchenko,"  lawyer Illya Novikov says. 

Novikov states whatever the outcome of Savchenko's trial he will continue to defend illegally detained Ukrainians in Russia. He believes Savchenko's release would be a significant victory for Ukraine in Russia's hybrid war.

"Savchenko is a locomotive, if we get her out we will get a unique and important ambassador who will be able to explain to others about what's going on," says Illya Novikov.

Read also Ukrainian political prisoner addresses Ukrainians in his letter from prison in Chechnya

Savchenko is on trial for involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists as well for crossing Russia's border illegally.
Many U.S. and E.U. politicians have called the trial a sham. Savchenko says she was smuggled into Russia by militant forces an hour before the journalists were killed.

A verdict is expected on March 21 and 22.

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