MOSCOW: A female Ukrainian airforce navigator known as “G.I. Jane” in her home country has been arrested in Russia and charged over the deaths of two Russian journalists, in a move condemned by Kiev.
Russian investigators said Nadiya Savchenko, a helicopter navigator and one of the few women serving in the Ukrainian airforce, was an accomplice in what they claimed was the deliberate murder of the journalists during fighting in Ukraine’s restive east last month. Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, who worked for state television channel Rossiya, were killed on June 18 after being hit with shrapnel in an attack by Ukrainian forces near the city of Lugansk. Government forces have been battling pro-Russian rebels which control of large parts of eastern Ukraine for months.
Kiev said the journalists were hit because they were moving together with the rebels without protective gear, but Moscow claims they were specifically targeted and has launched a probe into their deaths.
Russian investigators said that Savchenko took leave at her regular job as an officer in the airforce and joined the Aydar battalion - a volunteer detachment formed by Kiev to aid in its operation in eastern Ukraine.
“Having gained the coordinates of a group of Russian journalists and other civilians near Lugansk, she (Savchenko) passed them on to the combatants,” and the coordinates were then used to direct mortar shelling, the powerful Investigative Committee said.
The statement by the investigators said Savchenko was detained after crossing into Russia while “posing as a refugee” without any identity documents and was topped during a routine ID check “in strict accordance with Russian law.”
Kiev however accused Russia of kidnapping Savchenko and smuggling her across the border for prosecution, demanding her “unconditional release.”
“These actions will not be left without a proper response by Ukraine and the international community,” the foreign ministry said.
Ukrainian authorities pointed out that she was held prisoner by militants prior to her surfacing in custody on Russian territory, alleging that her move across the border was the work of the security services.
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