34-year-old and her legal team say they expect 25-year-prison sentence
A Russian court could today announce a verdict in the case of Nadiya Savchenko. The Ukrainian pilot is facing up to 25 years behind bars. She is accused of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists, charges her lawyers say are fabricated.
The 34-year-old's case dates back to June 17th 2014. That's the day she was abducted by Kremlin-backed separatist forces and forcibly taken across the border to Russia. This footage was shot just one week later. It shows the first official interrogation of Savchenko on Russian territory. Nadiya recounts the moment when she was captured:
"I didn't see a checkpoint. Just some blown up equipment at first. Then I saw the place where the ambush had taken place…they threw a sack over me. They probably took me through a checkpoint. But I didn't see anything"
Savchenko's lawyers believe this meeting was when the false case against their client began to take shape. The Ukrainian pilot has always maintained she was already detained when the two Russian journalists were killed.
Savchenko was later taken to Moscow, where she was held in pre-trial detention for more than a year. In that time she was appointed to Ukraine's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That move, in theory, granted her immunity from prosecution and should have led to her release.
In August 2015, it was decided the pilot's case would be heard in Russia's Rostov region, not in Moscow. Savchenko's lawyers say the choice of a remote location was an attempt by the Kremlin to deter observers and journalists from court hearings.
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One month later – proceedings began. Savchenko set the tone for all her future court appearances; from her glass enclosure, she denounced the trial as a sham and accused Russia of being hypocritical and two-faced. After that first hearing, Russia extended her arrest a number of times. In response the 34-year-old carried out several hunger strikes, including most recently a ‘dry' hunger strike when she even refused water.
With a decision from the court imminent, Savchenko and her counsel have repeated long-held beliefs they expect a guilty verdict which they will not recognise. All the while, international pressure on Russia to release Savchenko has grown almost daily. Her plight has been highlighted by rallies and protests across Europe and North America, with E.U. and U.S. officials leading calls for her to be freed.