Donetsk / AFP
A court in southern Russia on Monday found Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko guilty of murder over the killing of two Russian journalists in war-torn east Ukraine, at a trial condemned by Kiev and the West as a political sham.
Savchenko â€œcommitted the premeditated murder as part of a group of people from the motives of hatred and enmity,â€ a judge in the town of Donetsk was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
The verdict said that Savchenkoâ€”who denies all the chargesâ€”was motivated by hatred towards â€œRussian-speaking people in generalâ€, agencies reported.
Prosecutors are demanding 23 years in jail for the 34-year-old combat helicopter pilotâ€”who was serving in a pro-Kiev volunteer battalion fighting pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraineâ€”with sentencing set to last until Tuesday.
Savchenko was also found guilty on a charge of illegally crossing the border into Russia, reports said.
Savchenkoâ€”who has become a national hero at home and been elected to parliament in absentia â€”insists she was kidnapped by pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine in June 2014 and illegally smuggled over the border into Russia before being slapped with false charges.
Ukraine and its Western allies see Savchenkoâ€™s case as a political show trial and insist she is the latest pawn in the Kremlinâ€™s broader aggression against its ex-Soviet neighbour that saw Moscow seize the Crimea peninsula and fuel a separatist insurgency.
But authorities in Russia have insisted she was the â€œspotterâ€ in the fatal shelling of Russian state journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.