Nadia Savchenko: Freedom or Death

14:58, 20.03.2015
5 min.

After a short break, Nadia Savchenko has resumed her hunger strike. According to the captured Ukrainian female pilot, she will refuse to consume any food until she returns to Ukraine or until her “final day.”  UNIAN asked various experts what else can be done to release the Kremlin’s prisoner.

“The Kremlin will send me back to my homeland. Even if it is as a “load 200” [Russian military term which stands for human remains], in a coffin, decorated with a ribbon topped with a bow for my birthday on May 11,” wrote the Ukrainian detainee Nadia Savchenko in a letter recently published by her lawyers via Twitter.

According to Savchenko, she had suspended her hunger strike for 10 days due to numerous requests from “kind people.” However, in the future she finds it impossible to compromise with her conscience, “I can’t [do it] any longer, because otherwise I will lose my self-respect.”

In her letter, Savchenko also said that she was illegally captured, taken from Ukraine and thrown into a Russian prison. Ukrainian pilot’s sister Vira Savchenko believes that Nadia will not survive her renewed hunger strike. "Her [internal] organs are so damaged that if she stops eating now, she will quickly fade away. This mustn’t be done,” she said, commenting on her sister’s decision to resume hunger strike.”

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In turn, the Ukrainian doctors who had examined Savchenko, also warned that resuming of starvation may result in irremediable consequences. But, despite the statement by Savchenko’s attorney Mark Feygin that the doctors have given sufficient justification for the prisoner’s transfer to the clinic, so that she could be medically brought out of her lengthy hunger strike under professional supervision, the Ukrainian female pilot is still being kept in the detainment facility.

Savchenko vs Putin: the final blow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had plenty of opportunities to release Savchenko without bringing the situation to an extreme point, experts say. Now, by refusing to let her out at least for the necessary treatment, the Kremlin is effectively excluding itself from the international legal framework, and this absolutely does not play into the hands of Putin, personally.

According to Nikolay Sungurovsky, a military expert, the director of military programs for the Razumkov Center, "to put it mildly, it is not morally justified to involve specific people and their health issues in matters of an international conflict.” As a result, anything related to the health of the Ukrainian pilot will hit very hard both Russia in general and Putin in particular. “And Savchenko’s death can play the same role as the downing of the Malaysian Boeing and as losses in eastern Ukraine... This all adds up to a total disregard for international law,” Sungurovsky said.

“Savchenko’s death will not just affect Putin’s international image, but could deal a final blow to it,” he said.


Expert are still unclear about how the stubbornness of the Russian authorities on the Savchenko case will reflect on European policy towards Russia. But the West's attitude to this issue is "a matter of actual values that are now present in Europe.” However, according to Sungurovsky, “healthy forces there [in Europe] have started dominating today.”

Is appealing to a scoundrel useless?

In turn, Andrey Piontkovsky, Russian political scientist, publicist, a leading researcher for the Institute for System Analysis said that appealing to Putin to be reasonable on the issue of releasing Nadia Savchenko is useless. “You have to understand whom you are dealing with. Putin is not just a total scoundrel and a murderer, he is a man with an totally inadequate psyche. And if he is into hating someone, then he goes with it to the end, he does not retreat,” he says.

The expert noted that all prominent world leaders have tried to directly intervene in the Ukrainian pilot’s case, but “her life is in the hands of a single person who does not want to save her.”

The Russian political scientist agrees with Sungurovsky that if Savchenko dies, there will be major repercussions for the Kremlin, not only within Ukrainian society, but also from the West. “After all, talking about Savchenko, we have to note that there is also the Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, and others, abducted from Ukrainian soil, who are, in fact, hostages,” he said.

"But the fact that Putin deliberately plays along with this image of an executioner in the eyes of the whole world once again confirms the idea that he is a terribly vicious person,” said Piontkovsky.

"He is also mentally inadequate, which makes him the most horrible person in world history,” the analyst believes. “For there have been many villains, but none of them had nuclear weapons.”

The commander factor

At the same time, Piontkovsky said that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko could be the man to save Savchenko. “After all, Savchenko is a servicewoman, and President Poroshenko, as a Supreme Commander of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, can order her to stop her hunger strike. I think this is the only way she can be saved,” he said.

A social psychologist Oleh Pokalchuk also allows for this possibility, “The game, in which Poroshenko as supreme commander could give a servicewoman Savchenko an order to stop the hunger strike, is possible. But it is necessary to clarify her legal status within the Armed Forces as of the moment when she was captured and through the period of captivity...” he said.

In addition, the expert says, “There is the issue of soldiers’ personal trust in the commander-in-chief, and it is not an easy one. Poroshenko may give such an order, but it might be ignored as unacceptable.”

“For example, the Japanese army lieutenant Hiru Onoda continued to fight in the Second World War in 1944 and for more than 30 years after its end, until his immediate superior – an old man by the time - arrived on the scene and personally canceled in due form an order previously given in the '40s,” Pokalchuk said.

We need to form a ‘Savchenko list’

However, in his opinion, the West has more levers to use to get Nadia Savchenko released. “It's not a matter of opportunity,” says Pokalchuk,  “for they once exchange a ‘troublesome’ dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, for the leading Chilean communist Luis Corvalan, and it was all OK.”

In addition, he said that “the history of secret services knows even more extraordinary exchanges made in no less strange circumstances, such as the exchange of a Soviet spy Rudolf Abel for the U-2 pilot Francis Powers, details of which are still hidden from prying eyes.”

Another thing, according to the expert, is that the global community needs to make Savchenko’s release a public unilateral act, which is unacceptable for the Kremlin, [as it would be] the symbol of surrender. “And there is a bad thing: if you want to get a good person from a foreign prison, it is not as difficult as it seems. It’s a matter of a price to pay. And it’s not of a monetary value, it’s totally solvable,” says Pokalchuk.

Activists call for release of Nadiya Savchenko / Photo UNIAN

Actually, the fact that the international community is maintain its demand to the Kremlin for a public surrender suggests that idea to a psychologist that global geopolitics will only benefit from the Ukrainian prisoner's death. “Yes, [it’s] for the triumph of a good cause. Yes, it's such a terrible inhumane weapon of retaliation (if there is any humane one, after all). We must also understand that vanity, inflated self-esteem, and paranoia is no pathology for the Kremlin, it’s the norm,” said Pokalchuk.

At the same time, he said that Savchenko’s psychological condition must also be taken into account, “The whole world is watching her. It’s also unacceptable for her to surrender, and any step towards cooperation with the Kremlin means surrender... "

Viktor Nebozhenko, a political scientist, director of the sociological service “Ukrainian Barometer” shares the social psychologist’s opinion, “Even in the worst days of the Soviet Union, international organizations pulled prisoners out of the concentration camps, and it worked.”


"I do not understand why neither the Red Cross nor the OSCE nor the famous Doctors Without Borders, which were so active in Ukraine in 2004-2006, nor the European Parliament, are not taking the next steps to release Savchenko,” said Nebozhenko. In his opinion, they are capable of “putting pressure on the Russian elite.” “It's quite possible. And the evidence is that the “Magnitsky list” is almost of an international repressive nature. At the same time, a “Savchenko list” has not yet been formed in Ukraine in the eyes of the international community. And that shows that the West is rather indifferent to our patriot’s fate,” he said.

In this situation, there is one thing left – to hope that a “Savchenko’s list” will be created, while Savchenko will be able to personally watch the sanctions being implemented against her tormentors, and to watch while at home, and not in a prison dungeon.

Konstantin Goncharov

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