Back In Parliament After Abrupt Release From Jail, Savchenko Praises Zelenskiy
(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – KYIV – April 23, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/back-in-parliament-after-abrupt-release-from-jail-savchenko-praises-zelenskiy/29898734.html)
Ukrainian lawmaker Nadia Savchenko has returned to parliament a week after she was unexpectedly released from jail, where she had been held for more than a year over allegations that she plotted a terrorist attack on parliament.
Speaking on April 23, Savchenko vowed to remain in politics and said she does not plan to be in opposition to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko by a wide margin in an April 21 presidential runoff election.
“It was enough for me to read [his] program. Many points there are those I was talking about three years ago,” Savchenko said without giving details. “I saw in Zelenskiy’s program everything that had to be there. I think that must be supported.”
Savchenko, who returned from Russia a hero following two years in prison there but was arrested in her home country in March 2018, was freed on April 16 because the term of her pretrial detention expired and had not been extended.
Savchenko said she will continue to work as a lawmaker in the Verkhovna Rada “because I was sworn in to the Ukrainian people.”
“As for my political future, yes, I will stay in politics. I will not be alone. I have a team,” she said.
Savchenko’s release was the latest twist in a dramatic series of events for her, who for a time was a hero of the war that has killed some 13,000 people in the eastern region known as the Donbas since Russia fomented unrest and backed separatists after pro-European protests drove Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych from power in 2014.
Savchenko says she was abducted in the combat zone later that year and taken to Russia. She spent two years in prison there, defying the Kremlin with a series of hunger strikes, and returned to a hero’s welcome in Kyiv when she was released as part of a prisoner swap in May 2016.
Elected to the Verkhovna Rada while still in Russian captivity, she had declared her intention to run in this year’s presidential election. But she was stripped of her parliamentary immunity on March 22, 2018, a week after Lutsenko accused her of plotting to destroy the Rada’s roof cupola with mortar shells, kill surviving lawmakers with assault-rifle fire, and overthrow the government.
Savchenko has maintained her innocence. She said in March 2018 that undercover agents attempting to discredit her encouraged her to plan to overthrow the government, and that she pretended to go along with the conspiracy in a bid to embarrass the authorities and expose what she said was their duplicity.
Before her arrest Savchenko had drawn fire from several political camps, facing criticism for holding talks with the separatists without government consent and for comments nationalists said indicated she advocated accepting Moscow’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
After Savchenko ‘s release, Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said that the accusations against her remain in place.
Ukrainian media reports said that the next hearing in the case was scheduled for May 7.
[featured images are file photos from other occasions]