Ukrainian pilot found guilty in Russia

Hunger-striking Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko on 9 March 2016Image copyright

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Nadia Savchenko has repeatedly expressed her defiance of the court

A Russian court has found Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko guilty in the case of two Russian journalists killed by mortar fire, news agencies report.

Reading the verdict, a judge in the Russian town of Donetsk said Ms Savchenko had been driven by “political hatred”.

Prosecutors said she acted as an artillery spotter in eastern Ukraine and want her jailed for 23 years.

Ukraine and some Western countries have condemned the case as a show trial.

Ms Savchenko’s lawyer had argued phone records proved she was captured by pro-Russian rebels before the journalists died.

But the judge said she was part of a “criminal group” and had aimed to kill an “unlimited number of people”, Russian news agencies reported.

She will be sentenced on Tuesday, after the court explains its reasons for the guilty verdict.

Ukraine resistance symbol in Russia

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One of her lawyers had said earlier there was “no doubt” that the court in Donetsk, southern Russia, would sentence her to a “few dozen years”.

“A propaganda machine is at work here, absent of justice and freedom,” said Mark Feigin on Twitter.

Ms Savchenko, who is on hunger strike, is alleged to have directed mortar fire that killed two Russian state TV journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin – a claim she denies.

The incident happened in June 2014, at the height of fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels.

The 34-year-old, who is also a member of the Ukrainian parliament, says she was kidnapped by rebel fighters at least an hour before the attack and later handed over to the Russian authorities.

But Russian prosecutors say she secretly crossed into Russian territory herself.

Western politicians have called for her release.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said she should be freed “immediately and unconditionally” while the US envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, described the trial as “farcical”.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine – along with its Western allies – have deteriorated since the events of 2014 in Ukraine.

Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula that March after an unrecognised referendum on self-determination, and is accused of covertly supporting the rebels in the bloody conflict which later divided eastern Ukraine.

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