Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian war hero once held captive by Russia, has been detained on March 22 by the police inside the Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament. Authorities accused Savchenko of trying to blow up the roof of the Rada. Before her arrest, several of her fellow lawmakers in the government voted to strip the opposition member of her immunity from arrest. Savchenko did not resist arrest and was not handcuffed.
Savchenko served in the Ukrainian air force during the war in Eastern Ukraine, which broke out after pro-Western demonstrators in Kiev, the capital, forced the then-president to flee. According to her official story, Savchenko was abducted in a combat zone in Eastern Ukraine and held by Russia for two years. She was elected as an independent member of the opposition during this time. She returned to a hero’s welcome as part of a prisoner swap in 2016. When she entered parliament, she became a vicious critic of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Without the government’s consent, she held talks with the Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine. In addition, she made statements which, according to nationalists, indicated that she was willing to allow Russia to take control of Crimea.
On March 15, Savchenko was accused by Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko of plotting to destroy the Rada’s roof with mortar shells and then kill the surviving lawmakers with automatic rifles. This came as a shock to many. Lutsenko said that “The plan was to overthrow the constitutional system by carrying out terrorist attacks on Kiev’s central government quarter… using weapons received from the leaders of the so-called DNR [the separatists in the Donetsk Oblast in Eastern Ukraine].”
Savchenko denies the accusations. She says that undercover agents affiliated with the Russian government discussed such a plan with her and that she faked cooperating with the plan to expose the existing government’s duplicity. In a speech in the Rada on March 20, she claimed that the act was meant to make the authorities look ridiculous. Lutsenko repeated his claims in the Rada on March 22. In the middle of his speech, he shared a video that showed Savchenko and a key negotiator in the 2016 hostage deal discussing how to overthrow the current government. The video shows Savchenko saying, “I propose a coup.”Lutsenko also wants Savchenko to undergo a forced psychiatric evaluation.
Savchenko did not deny the video’s authenticity but said it was merely a “political provocation.” Ruban, the hostage negotiator in the video, was arrested after allegedly smuggling weapons into Ukraine earlier in March. He will be prosecuted on charges of plotting to kill Poroshenko but maintains his story that he is innocent and was framed.
The Kiev court ordered a two-month pre-trial detention period for Savchenko beginning on March 23. She will be held without bail and in response has announced that she will start a hunger strike. If found guilty, she will face life in prison.