Ukrainian lawmaker and former national hero Nadia Savchenko, who is in jail pending trial on charges of plotting a coup d’etat against the government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, announced on April 17 that she would resume a hunger strike.
According to her lawyer, Oleg Solovey, Savchenko had agreed to stop her hunger strike for three days to undergo a lie-detector test. However, during the polygraph exam on April 13, she fainted and later vowed to resume her hunger strike as soon as she is healthy enough to re-take the test.
Savchenko first announced that she would be on a hunger strike on March 23 after a Kyiv court placed her under two-month pretrial detention. One day earlier, her fellow lawmakers stripped her of her immunity from prosecution and authorised her arrest.
Savchenko is accused of plotting to overthrow the government by carrying out a “large-scale terrorist attack” in Kyiv and to kill senior government officials.
An alleged accomplice, Volodymyr Ruban, was detained earlier in March while crossing into government-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, allegedly with large amounts of weapons and ammunition hidden in a shipment of furniture.
Savchenko maintains her innocence and says her arrest was illegal.
A former radio operator and paratrooper in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Savchenko served as the only female Ukrainian soldier in Iraq from 2004-2008 before returning to Ukraine to train as a helicopter pilot. After resigning her commission to fight with a volunteer battalion, she was captured by pro-Moscow separatist forces in June 2014 and spent two years as a POW in a prisoner camp in Russia.
The fiery Savchenko repeatedly and publicly defied 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 parliament on an opposition party ticket while still imprisoned in Russia, Savchenko became a vehement critic of Poroshenko’s government after her return. She drew fire from several political camps and Ukraine’s vocal and influential Canadian diaspora, most of whom are highly protective of the current Ukrainian government and hostile to those who are seen as making conciliatory gestures to Moscow and their separatist allies.
Savchenko has also faced increased criticism in recent months for holding talks with the separatists, without the government’s consent, and for her comments that both Ukrainian nationalists and the diaspora have said indicate that she willing to accept Moscow’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula.
The War in the Donbass has killed more than 10,300 people since fighting first erupted in April 2014.