Ukrainian protesters demand that Russia release Savchenko


KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A few hundred people marched from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry to the Russian Embassy in Kiev on Tuesday to demand that Russia release Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko.

In Moscow, the police broke up a small demonstration in support of Savchenko and detained about 30 protesters, the Interfax news agency reported.

Savchenko was captured in June 2014 while fighting with a Ukrainian volunteer battalion against Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. She is now on trial in southern Russia, accused of acting as a spotter who called in coordinates for a mortar attack that killed two Russian journalists and several other civilians.

Savchenko has been on a hunger strike since Thursday, when the judge adjourned her trial without allowing her to give her final statement. The trial is expected to resume on Wednesday, with a verdict possible this week.

Among those taking part in Tuesday’s demonstration in Kiev were members of Ukraine’s parliament and Maria Varfolomeeva, a journalist who was recently released after spending more than a year held by rebels in eastern Ukraine.

“I hope this rally will bring some benefit indeed,” Varfolomeeva said. “When I was released on March 3, I was in the hospital, getting treatment and everything was good with me, but the most difficult period for her — the hunger strike — has just started. I want her to know that we all support her.”