15:02 Jun. 11, 2016
'Our politicians still behave as if they are kings as it used to be in the Soviet Union and as it is still in Russia' - Savchenko
Since her release from Russian captivity last month after nearly two years, Ukrainian airwoman Nadia Savchenko has called for talks with Russia-backed separatists about the war in eastern Ukraine and further prisoner exchanges, according to the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty.
And to the critics who have dismissed prospects of such talks as impossible, she has a message: Try a stint behind bars.
"I have spent two years in jail for nothing," Savchenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service in an interview. "Try to do the same. If you want to persuade people that you are right, try to spend time in jail."
Savchenko, 35, has raised hackles among some Ukrainian officials for saying she is willing to negotiate directly with separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine, where more than 9,300 have been killed since hostilities erupted in April 2014.
But after her experience on the frontline of the war, in Russian captivity, and visiting eastern Ukraine recently, she says such direct talks are crucial, as are conciliatory steps like an amnesty for locals who took up arms against Kyiv but did not commit serious crimes.
"If we can't make peace, then [the war] will last forever," she said. "And that has already become a burden for everyone. Everybody is fed up with that. People are tired. People want to live in peace."
А Russian court in March handed Savchenko a 22-year prison sentence after finding her guilty of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists covering the conflict. She denies the charges and says she was abducted in June 2014 by separatists in eastern Ukraine and smuggled into Russia.
She was freed last month in a prisoner swap for two Russians alleged to be military intelligence officers who were convicted in Ukraine of fighting alongside the separatists.
Since returning to Ukraine following 708 days in Russian custody, Savchenko has been hailed as a hero.
She has since taken her seat in the Ukrainian parliament that she won while jailed in Russia in 2014 on the party list of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party.
So far, Savchenko has appeared intent on building on her political capital as an outsider in Ukraine's rough-and-tumble politics, which has long been plagued by rampant corruption and cronyism.
"Our politicians still behave as if they are kings as it used to be in the Soviet Union and as it is still in Russia," she said. "I want ordinary people to see me, and therefore I will continue traveling across the country, visiting villages."