Mock trial

Ukrainian pilot receives 22-year sentence in Russia after controversial trial

Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko stands inside the defendant's cage during her hearing. (VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was sentenced to 22 years in prison by a Russian court on charges of complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists after a highly politicized trial that was deemed unfair by the Ukrainian government and human rights organizations.

As she was pronounced guilty, Savchenko started singing a song in Ukrainian and the court had to stop their proceedings for a few minutes, only to be interrupted again by people in the crowd singing the Ukrainian anthem. “Simply put, Lieutenant Savchenko did not get a fair trial, and so her conviction is unsound and should not stand,” Hugh Williamson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “There should be justice for the deaths of Kornelyuk and Voloshin, but justice won’t be served by an unfair trial that was highly politicized from the start.”

Savchenko is a national hero in Ukraine, where she was even elected to Parliament while in prison awaiting her trial. She denies all the charges, and claims that she was kidnapped by Russian forces an hour before the two journalists were killed, only to face a show trial. She announced that she will not appeal the decision, as she does not believe the Russian courts can give her a fair trial.

Several Western leaders, including President Obama, have urged her release. Ukraine’s president, Petro O. Poroshenko, announced after the verdict that he wanted to negotiate with President Putin about possibly exchanging the pilot for two Russian servicemen captured in Ukraine. “President Putin said he would return Nadiya V. Savchenko to Ukraine after the so-called court decision,” he wrote in a statement on his website. “Now, it is time to fulfill that promise.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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