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Imprisoned Ukrainian Pilot Nadezhda Savchenko Ends Hunger Strike

hunger strike
Russian President Vladimir Putin / AP
• April 19, 2016 1:57 pm

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Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko ended a two-week hunger strike Tuesday after Kiev and Moscow negotiated her release from Russian prison Monday.

On March 22, a Russian court charged Savchenko with murder and sentenced her to 22 years in prison, claiming that the pilot killed two Russian journalists while fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014. The court also claimed that Savchenko illegally crossed into Russia. She has disputed the claim, asserting that Russian-backed separatists kidnapped her and smuggled her into Russia before the mortar attacks that killed the journalists occurred.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had "agreed on a certain algorithm that would allow Nadezhda’s release." He later tweeted that Savchenko agreed to end the hunger strike during a phone call with him.

Poroshenko told reporters in March that he was "ready to swap so Nadiya Savchenko can come home" and said he would exchange Savchenko for two Russian "terrorists," according to Meduza. The two Russian officers, who were allegedly found fighting alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine, were sentenced to 14 years in prison by a Ukrainian court Monday. Poroshenko said Tuesday that their sentence "opens a definite possibility for an exchange."

Savchenko's defiance throughout her trial and after conviction earned her martyr status in Ukraine. She went on an 80-day hunger strike in protest of her imprisonment in December 2014 and embarked on a dry hunger strike – refusing both food and water – during her trial this March.

When the Russian judge began reading her sentence on the final day of her trial, Savchenko smiled and sang a Ukrainian song.

Published under: Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin