Ukraine: Nadiya Savchenko held over alleged coup plot

Prosecutors allege Savchenko planned to attack Ukrainian parliament building with guns and grenades.

    Savchenko became famous in 2014 after being captured by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]
    Savchenko became famous in 2014 after being captured by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

    Authorities in Ukraine have arrested Nadiya Savchenko, an ex-combat pilot who became a member of parliament after spending nearly two years in a Russian jail, on charges she was planning to carry out a coup.

    According to the allegations, Savchenko planned an attack on parliament using grenades and automatic weapons acquired from pro-Russian separatists in the east.

    General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko on Thursday told parliament about the alleged plot, after which legislators voted to remove her political immunity.

    "The plan was to overthrow the constitutional system by carrying out terrorist attacks on Kiev's central government quarter ... using weapons received from the leaders of the so-called DNR," Lutsenk said, referring to Donetsk People's Republic.

    However, Savchenko, an outspoken critic of the Ukrainian government, claimed it was a plot by undercover agents working for the Ukrainian government to discredit her.

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    She said she knowingly went along with the agents in order to reveal the scheme to the public.

    "This is not a terrorist act, this is a political provocation to make the authorities look ridiculous," Savchenko said in a statement.

    "To accuse me of treason against Ukraine ... and to make anti-heroes out of yesterday's heroes simply because they do not agree with the policies and positions of the current government, that’s all the authorities can do," she said.

    She also accused authorities of betraying the ideals of the 2014 revolution during which pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovich was overthrown.

    Savchenko said that if the current situation in Ukraine continues, "the danger in parliament won’t be me, your danger will be your people".

    Prisoner swap

    Savchenko, an ex-military helicopter pilot, became famous in 2014 when she was captured by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine and sentenced to 22 years in prison for her alleged role in the deaths of two Russian journalists in the conflict zone.

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    Her refusal to bend after nearly two years in Russian custody made her a national hero in Ukraine.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned her in 2016 as part of a swap for two Russian servicemen jailed in Ukraine.

    Savchenko's demeanour during her ordeal in Russia earned her the nickname of Ukraine's "Joan of Arc".

    After her return, she was awarded the Star of the Hero of Ukraine award and became an opposition figure in the Ukrainian parliament.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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