Ukraine pilot’s 22-year jail term begins in Russia

epa05202454 Former Ukrainian pilot and member of the Ukrainian parliament Verkhovnaya Rada Nadezhda Savchenko makes her final statement during a trial session in a district court of Donetsk, Rostov region, Russia, 09 March 2016. Savchenko faces more than 20 years in Russian prison on the allegation that she gave Ukrainian national forces the coordinates for an attack in which two Russian journalists were killed. Ukraine has appointed Savchenko as a member of its delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), giving her diplomatic immunity.  EPA/MAXIM ROMANOV

Moscow / AFP

Nadiya Savchenko’s 22-year sentence formally began on Tuesday with the Ukrainian pilot to be sent to prison camp in the next 10 days unless Kiev secures a swap deal with Moscow.
The 34-year-old military pilot was convicted on March 22 over the killing of two Russian journalists in east Ukraine, a charge she denies. “The court did not receive any appeals against the sentence from either side… therefore it entered legal force at midnight,” Donetsk district court spokeswoman Yulia Kalacheva told RIA Novosti state news agency on Tuesday.
Savchenko is currently incarcerated in a detention centre in southern Russia, but the law requires she leave for a prison camp within 10 days unless she is swapped or extradited to Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.
Her conviction was condemned by Kiev and its Western allies, and US Secretary of State John Kerry said he raised the case with President Vladimir Putin at a meeting last month. Savchenko’s lawyers said at the time of her conviction they were sure she would never be sent to a prison camp.
Her lawyer Nikolai Polozov said on Monday he expected Ukraine to respond by requesting her extradition.
Savchenko refused to appeal against her sentence, which would have delayed her punishment, saying she does not recognise the authority of Russian courts.
The Kremlin has said that no decision has been made on a prisoner swap and that Savchenko will serve her sentence.

New hunger strike
“There are no new elements on this question,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti news agency on Monday. After her conviction, Ukraine’s pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko said he was ready to go ahead with a swap involving two suspected Russian soldiers on trial in Kiev for fighting in the separatist east. Ukraine’s foreign ministry on Monday repeated calls for her immediate and unconditional release.
Savchenko—who has become a national hero in her homeland and has been elected to parliament in absentia—announced through her lawyers she would begin another hunger strike without water on Wednesday, the latest in a series of protests she has staged during her detention and trial.

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