Russia to move Ukrainian pilot from jail to hospital over weight loss

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 27, 2015 11:01 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Ukrainian pilot who was captured by separatists fighting in east Ukraine will be moved from a Moscow jail to a city hospital because of health problems caused by a hunger strike, her lawyer said on Monday.

Nadezhda Savchenko, who has become a symbol of resistance in Ukraine to what Kiev and the West see as Russian aggression, is being held in Moscow on charges of aiding the killing of two Russian journalists in east Ukraine last year.

She has been weakened by a hunger strike against what she says are politically motivated charges.

After visiting Savchenko in jail, defense lawyer Mark Feigin posted on Twitter her hand-written note in which she said she had trouble eating. He said she would be moved on Tuesday.

"Hunger is my only weapon to fight the outrageous activity of the Russian authorities! So don't ask me to lay it down!," she wrote, giving her weight as 50 kg (110 pounds) and body temperature as 35.8 Celsius (96.4 Fahrenheit).

"I don't like the food in Russia! Poisoned water and air!," she wrote. "Maybe I have an allergy to Russia? Or to jail?!"

Savchenko, who will turn 34 on May 11, is also charged with crossing the border into Russia illegally. She could face 20 years in jail if convicted.

Her lawyers say she had already been captured by pro-Russian separatists at the time of the shelling in which the journalists were killed.

Savchenko, who had been fighting with a militia group loyal to the government in Kiev, emerged days later in Russia. She says she was spirited out of Ukraine illegally by the rebels who blindfolded her.

Ukrainian and Western politicians have appealed to Moscow to free Savchenko. President Vladimir Putin said in December her fate would be decided in court.

"She doesn't eat, drinks only a little and her medical tests are very bad," Elizaveta Glinka, a member of Putin's advisory human rights council who saw Savchenko on Monday, said in a statement.

It added Savchenko had lost eight kg in a week.

The pro-Russian separatists rose up more than a year ago in east Ukraine, where a fragile ceasefire is now in place.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)