It has been more than a month since Russia illegally detained 1st Lt. Nadiya Savchenko of the Ukrainian armed forces. Her case is one of the clearest indications of Russia’s direct involvement in the conflict that has been imposed on our country by Kremlin-backed terrorists.
Savchenko was captured by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine while carrying out her duty to defend her country. Eventually, she was handed over to Moscow, whose treatment of her has been marked by lies and abuse. This began with the propagation of a cynical myth about the details of her apprehension, which Moscow claimed occurred after she crossed the border while passing herself off as a refugee. No facts have been provided to suggest a plausible motivation for such an action.
It took more than a week for Russia to allow Ukraine’s consul to visit her. In the meantime, Savchenko was subjected to numerous interrogations by Russian authorities and the terrorists they support and was denied access to a lawyer. Now she stands falsely accused of being involved in the killing of two Russian journalists in June. The prosecution lacks any evidence to support this blatant lie.
In Ukraine, Savchenko’s detention has resonated on a massive scale. President Petro Poroshenko has held her up as a symbol of the struggle facing the country and a serviceman who has demonstrated a true, strong, Ukrainian spirit. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has strongly protested her illegal transfer to Russia and considers her capture an act of terrorism. Millions of Ukrainians demand her release.
To fully understand what Savchenko means to our country, one must know the story of her life and military career. Born in Kiev and brought up in a patriotic household, she long dreamed of having the chance to defend her country, joining the army at 16. In the mid-2000s, she was the only female Ukrainian to work side by side with U.S. forces in Iraq. Today, she is the only Ukrainian woman who can pilot the Su-24 bomber and Mi-24 helicopter.
In short, Nadiya Savchenko is a Ukrainian hero, and her abduction by pro-Russian terrorists and illegal detention by Russia, which still claims to have no influence on those who took her, is an appalling violation of international law and human rights. Her release should be a foregone conclusion.
In a video of her interrogation that has recently emerged on the Internet, Savchenko, handcuffed to a metal pipe, says she does not expect to return home alive and adds that she is not afraid. But Ukraine calls on the United States, the European Union and the entire international community to strongly raise their voices in her defense and demand her immediate release.
Olexander Motsyk is Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States.