Savchenko’s Hunger Strike Enters Critical Phase after five days Counting.
Savchenko’s last words in court were short and sharp. “If you wanted
to show how Russians were fascists, you’ve done well,” she said,
predicting Russia would soon see its own popular revolution.
Savchenko finished by standing on a bench, offering
a middle-finger salute to the presiding judge, and singing the Ukrainian
She is accused of “abetting the killing” of two Russian
journalists in Metallist, near Luhansk in separatist-controlled eastern
Ukraine in June 2014. The trial has been condemned by many neutral
observers: held in a country not officially involved in the war,
and with charges that border on the absurd.
Savchenko was due to be given a final word in court on March 3.
Things took a dramatic turn, however, when the judge decided to postpone
proceedings until March 9. Savchenko responded by announcing a dry
In court, Savchenko’s translator read out the statement the Ukrainian
officer had prepared for the earlier hearing (the text was later
published online by Savchenko’s sister.)
In that statement, Savchenko compared Russian President Vladimir
Putin with Hitler and Napoleon, and declared that she would continue her
hunger strike if her sentence was postponed for more than a week.
“This court has stolen a week of my life, and now you only have
a week to deliver your verdict. It is possible that I may not live
to see it,” she said in court.
When the judge announced sentencing would begin on March 21,
Savchenko shouted that she would continue her hunger strike, then began
singing the Ukrainian anthem. She was joined by her sister, and a number
of activists who had travelled to Donetsk in Russia’s southern Rostov
region to support her.
Nadezhda Savchenko’s 78-year-old mother Maria was also in the
courtroom. As the judge announced the date of sentencing, she held her
head in her hands. Later, she tried to speak to the judges, but they
hurriedly left the chamber.
Outside the courtroom, Maria Savchenko revealed the message she had
attempted to relay. “I wanted to tell them that I hoped their children
would be tried as unjustly, illegally, as my Nadya,” she said. “I held
Nadya’s hand in the courtroom. It was cold. She told me she wouldn’t
live to March 21.”
Clearly, if Savchenko continues the hunger strike, there are two
possible outcomes: she will die, or authorities will forcibly treat her.
According to the British Nutrition Association, humans can survive
for up to 8-10 days without food and water. Russian law allows
for intervention if “life is in danger.”
Now five days without food or drink, Savchenko is showing signs
of physical deterioration. Speaking to The Moscow Times, her sister Vera
said that her condition had worsened “significantly” since Friday. “Her
legs are swollen, she’s experiencing tachycardia and convulsions,” she
said. “Nadya shed 4 kilograms overnight.”
One of Savchenko’s lawyers, Ilya Novikov, said he did not believe
Russia was ready to resolve the situation. “Russia is still not ready
to make the right decision, and unfortunately something major will have
to happen for them to see the light.”
Some in the Kremlin “might think” Savchenko’s death or serious injury
would solve the problem. “In fact, it will make things worse on so many
levels,” Novikov said.
In the meantime Savchenko refuses to deal with Russian doctors.
A team of Ukrainian medics has been deployed to her — they are currently
held on the Russian border awaiting permission to enter the country.
According to another of her lawyers Nikolai Polozov, the court has
refused to issue necessary permits, citing a lack of judges available
to authorize the documents.
“Apparently, someone in Moscow decided to exacerbate the situation,” he said.
On Thursday evening it was confirmed by Moscow officials that
Ukrainian doctors have been kept from Savchenko on orders from the court
because of her “inflammatory behavior.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a phone conversation with
his Ukrainian counterpart Pavel Klimkin, explained that Ukrainian
doctors were initially going to be granted access to Savchenko, but
after the hearing, the court decided against it.
“Savchenko’s inflammatory behavior during the court hearing, and the
insults she addressed to the court, changed the situation and made this
visit impossible,” Lavrov was quoted as saying in an online statement
on the ministry’s website.
The statement went on to say that Savchenko’s health “doesn’t elicit
concerns” — she feels “fine,” and Russian medics are consistently
monitoring her condition.
Savchenko’s declining health has attracted widespread attention
in the West. The European Union issued a statement saying reports about
her dry hunger strike were “extremely worrisome,” and called on Russia
for her immediate release. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry echoed
these concerns. In a statement, he said Savchenko’s trial
and imprisonment demonstrated “disregard for international standards, as
well as for Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements.”
Russian top-ranking officials immediately condemned these statements,
describing them as an attempt by the West to influence and interfere
with independent court proceedings.
Her lawyers believe the West will impose new sections against Russia
if the Savchenko case is not resolved quickly. Novikov, who is currently
in the United States, told The Moscow Times he believed Western
officials are ready “to go quite far.” “It’s not just words; it looks
like a procedure of imposing new sanctions is about to start,” he said.