Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot detained in Russia in 2014, is guilty of assisting in the killing of two Russian journalists in 2014 near the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk and of illegally crossing the Russian border, a court in the southern Russian town of Donetsk ruled on March 21. The reading of the verdict will continue on March 22.
"Savchenko committed murder in collusion with a group of persons motivated by hatred and enmity," the judge's ruling said in reference to a mortar attack on June 17, 2014, which resulted in the deaths of Rossiya-24 TV journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin and reportedly five other civilans.
The motives for the attack were "hatred and hostility towards Luhansk region inhabitants, and towards Russian-speaking people as a whole," the ruling continued, adding that the shelling was ordered by then commander of Ukraine's volunteer Aidar Battalion defence force and current member of the Ukrainian parliament Serhiy Melnichuk.
The prosecution demands a 23-year prison term for the pilot, who was accused of directing fire onto on a separatist position where the camera crew was working, and a fine of RUB100,000 ($1,370).
Savchenko denies the allegations and claims she helped evacuate the wounded from the field during the incident. The officer also claims she was captured on Ukrainian territory by pro-Russian rebels and later transferred to custody in Russia. During the trial Savchenko went on repeated hunger strike protesting against the allegations.
The trial has drawn increasing international attention, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande issuing calls in March for Savchenko's immediate release.
Several EU Parliament MPs also sent a letter to EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini calling for the imposition of personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and 28 other people in connection with actions against Savchenko.
The so-called Savchenko list includes the head of Russia's FSB domestic intelligence service Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of the State Duma's foreign affairs committee Aleksei Pushkov and the leader of Ukraine's breakwaway Luhansk region.
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