Vera Savchenko, the sister of imprisoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, has arrived in Paris to meet with representatives of the French government as well as garner support from prominent French intellectuals.
The Ukrainian MP, who has recently suspended her hunger strike remains in Russian custody despite concerted diplomatic demands for her release.
The 33-year old is set to go on trial on Friday in Moscow on charges which are widely considered illegitimate by critics. She was captured last June in east Ukraine by Russian-backed separatists, who handed her over to Moscow in contraveniance of international law.
Vera Savchenko sister of Nadiya Savchenko: ‘’I have been meeting with various members of parliament and politicians, whose obligation it is to keep up the pressure. Water does not wear away stone by sheer force of impact, but over long duration. Therefore, we need to constantly remind elected officials to write letters and to bring up the matter in their discussions with President Putin. Only then shall we see results. The other great hope is to marshal public opinion, because that is what forces politicians to do anything. And if civil society begins to shape public opinion in a certain direction, then the politicians and policy will follow. The most important thing to explain to people about the situation is that (Nadiya) is a prisoner of war, which makes her a political prisoner. »
Vera Savchenko hosted the press conference at the Ukrainian embassy along with Ukrainian parliament member Mustafa Dzhemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatars. Jemilev was a prisoner of consciousness in the Soviet Union, and has been barred from entering Crimea by the Russian authorities in the wake of the Crimean annexation. Jemilev spoke of his own time spent in the Gulag as well as comparing his experiences of hunger strikes to those of Savchenko.
Mustafa Dzemilev: « I know categorically well what a hunger strike is because during my years of confinement, I have had reason to engage in it. My first time was a month long strike in 1969. Afterwards again for 33 days in Omsk. It’s horrific thing of course, and it is a horrifically hard to believe that a woman as fragile as Nadiya can hold up this long. I believe she has achieved many of her aims. At the same time, she is uniting figure who has lifted people’s spirits: if she could do what she has and behave herself with such courage under such extreme circumstances, than how should the rest of us behave? »’
The Paris itinerary included meetings with members of the French senate, the national assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the French ministry of Foreign Affairs. The trip concluded with her meeting members of the French intellegentsia and cultural figures, such as writer and philosopher Bernard Henri Levy.
Vera Savchenko sister of Nadiya Savchenko: « I have turned to the French parliament with a specific request, which is certainly not calculated to begin a war, especially since the (PACE) secession will be convening soon. The friendship between Russia and France is very important and no one wants to see it in ruins. So, we all recognize that the fragile peace that is currently holding between Europe and Russia is very important, but at the same time I have called on the French to take a public position on the Savchenko affair . They need pick a side. »
Savchenko will be visiting Istanbul and Brussels after departing from Paris. Afterwards, she hopes to attend her sister’s court case in Moscow.
This is Vladislav Davidzon, Reporting from Paris for Ukraine Today