WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) lauded Senate passage Thursday of a resolution (S. Res. 52) recognizing the plight of Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who was captured by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and has been held illegally in a Russian prison since July 2014. The resolution, cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), expresses solidarity with the Ukrainian people while condemning the Government of Russia for its actions and calling for the immediate release of Ms. Savchenko, who is now nearly two months into a hunger strike.
“We are deeply concerned for the health and wellbeing of Ms. Savchenko, a Ukrainian hero,” said Senator Cardin. “Nadiya is yet another victim of the Putin regime’s lawlessness, brutality, and contempt for human life. We need to recognize that this isn’t just about her; it’s a highly visible manifestation of Putin’s contempt for a Ukraine that wishes to remain free, independent, and democratic.”
“Vladimir Putin and his cronies in the Russian government have refused to respect international law and human rights,” Senator Wicker said. “This pattern of injustice should not be tolerated. In light of the recently brokered ceasefire, I urge the Administration to press for Ms. Savchenko’s freedom.”
On June 18, 2014, Nadiya Savchenko, Ukraine’s first-ever female fighter pilot and an Iraqi war veteran, was abducted by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine last July and illegally transferred across the border in handcuffs and with a bag over her head. Eventually, she was transported to Russia, illegally detained under unsubstantiated charges, subjected to numerous interrogations by Russian authorities and denied access to her counsel. These actions are a clear violation of her human rights and international standards.
In the eight months Nadiya has been incarcerated on specious and unsubstantiated charges, she has endured interrogations, involuntary psychiatric evaluations, and solitary confinement in the same pretrial detention center where Sergei Magnitsky was tortured and killed in 2009.
Despite rumors of a possible deal for her release, on Tuesday, a Moscow court extended her detention until May 13, ignoring clear evidence compiled by the defense proving her non-involvement in the deeds the Russian authorities claim as justification for holding her.
Nadiya was elected in absentia to the Ukrainian Parliament in October and a member of Ukraine’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). As such, she enjoys diplomatic immunity and PACE has called for her immediate release.
According to the September Minsk agreements between Russia and Ukraine, hostages on both sides were supposed to be released. Russia has made a mockery of the Minsk agreements, just as it has the Helsinki Final Act and numerous other Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agreements. The illegal detention of Nadiya and other Ukrainian citizens represents yet another violation of international agreements and the norms of civilized behavior. S. Res. 52 sends a strong message of solidarity to the Ukrainian people and calls on the Putin regime to release Nadiya immediately.