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Ukrainian pilot on hunger strike agrees to take water

10 March 2016, 20:10

Moscow - A Ukrainian pilot on trial in Russia has agreed to take water, but will continue a hunger strike following an appeal by Ukraine's president.

Nadezhda Savchenko, who served in a volunteer battalion against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and is accused of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists there, went on hunger strike and refused to take water after a court hearing last Thursday. Rights advocates feared she could die if she kept refusing water.

Mark Feygin, a lawyer for Savchenko, on Thursday posted her letter saying that she will take water, but continue the hunger strike.

"I will do all I can in order to save myself for the fight ahead and victories for Ukraine and for the truth," she was quoted as saying.

Feygin on Wednesday posted a letter he said was signed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, pledging to do "all it takes" to bring Savchenko home and saying he was ready to offer Savchenko a government job. However, Poroshenko's press office on Thursday said that the president had not sent the letter, and Feygin acknowledged it was a hoax.

Savchenko was captured by the separatists in July 2014 and later surfaced in custody in Russia. She says the separatists handed her over to the Russians, who took her across the border. Moscow claims that Savchenko escaped from the rebels and crossed the border on her own before she was arrested.

Top officials in Ukraine and elsewhere have been advocating for Savchenko's release and have called her a prisoner of war.

Russian officials have refused to discuss the possibility of a prisoner exchange while Savchenko is waiting for a verdict, expected at the end of March.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin, on Thursday told reporters that the Kremlin "made a note" of Poroshenko's reported statement as well as Savchenko's decision to take water, but he refused to comment further.

- AP


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