Verdict due in Ukraine pilot case

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 is due to start delivering its verdict in the controversial trial of the Ukrainian pilot, Nadia Savchenko.

Prosecutors accuse her of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine and want her jailed for 23 years.

But her lawyer said phone records proved she was captured by pro-Russian rebels before the journalists died.

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

One of her lawyers said 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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