Russia has not agreed to free a Ukrainian military pilot, Nadia Savchenko, who was detained in June and is on her 63rd day of a hunger strike, a Kremlin spokesman said today.
While the peace deal signed in Minsk yesterday calls for both sides to exchange all hostages and those “unlawfully detained”, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti that Savchenko’s case would have to be decided in court.
“It goes without saying the Ukrainian side brought it up, but the president (Putin) repeated his position, that has been voiced many times before, that in this case, she is under investigation and the degree of her guilt or innocence will be established by a court,” Peskov said.
Savchenko, 33, is charged with involvement in the deaths of two Russian reporters killed in east Ukraine in June and is being investigated by the powerful FSB security force. Her lawyers said she went on a hunger strike on December 13 in protest at her detention.
She is alleged to have been abducted by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and smuggled to Moscow, where she is now being detained.
Russia says she crossed the border of her own accord, pretending to be a refugee.
Russian experts said Savchenko would not automatically fall under the terms of the peace deal because she is accused of a serious crime.
The head of Putin’s human rights council, Ella Pamfilova, visited Savchenko in her prison hospital today.
Savchenko’s lawyer Ilya Novikov wrote on Twitter: “it’s likely they will try to persuade her to write a request for a pardon.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said yesterday that he had pressed Putin in Minsk on Savchenko’s case and was told she would be freed “shortly” after medical tests and a preliminary investigation.
Poroshenko said he had pushed for Savchenko’s immediate release and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande backed him up.