Nadiya Savchenko: Year in Russia’s captivity

Fashion designer-journalist-officer

Nadiya Savchenko was born on May 11, 1981 in Kyiv. Her father was an agricultural engineer, their mother a designer and cargo manager. Savchenko dreamt of becoming a military pilot since childhood.   

After finishing school, Nadiya made three attempts to enter Kharkiv Air Force University, but in vain – girls were not admitted. At last, her mother persuaded Nadiya to get a profession of fashion designer.

Being disappointed in the path chosen, Nadiya entered Faculty of Journalism at Kyiv University ‘Ukraine. Having studied only a year, on October 1, 2003 Nadiya joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine. First she served as a telephone operator in Kyiv, then became an operator of anti-tank guided missiles in Zhytomyr Airborne Brigade.

From September 2004 to March 2005, she was involved in a peacekeeping mission in Iraq as part of the Ukrainian contingent.


Nadiya did enter Kharkiv Air Force University, but she had to get the personal permission of the then Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko.

She was expelled from the University and branded ‘unflyable’ two times, but she resumed her studies twice. In 2009 she graduated from the university – not as a fighter pilot, but as a navigating officer.

Nadiya’s Maidan

When mass protests against the regime of Viktor Yanukovych started in Kyiv, Nadiya immediately returned to the capital and became an active participant in the Revolution of Dignity. Tere is a video of her actions on January 19, 2014.

It happened on the Day of Epiphany, when violent clashes between protesters and pro-Yanukovych’s riot police began. Nadiya was trying to prevent bloodshed: she did not let people throw stones at the police, saying that the ‘guys are just fulfilling orders’.

As soon as a war flared up in the east of Ukraine, Nadiya went to Donbass as a volunteer of battalion ‘Aydar’. At the same time the girl remained a serving officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and took part in the counterterrorist operation instead of being on leave. At the same time, she sent in resignation.

Nadiya took part in battles at the village of Metalist near Luhansk, where she was captured by Russian-backed militants.

Before the captivity Savchenko gave an interview and explained why she had decided to leave the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Russia’s lie

In Russia Savchenko is accused of being involved in mortar attacks that killed Russian journalists.

The official version of Russia says that Savchenko illegally crossed the border under the guise of a refugee. In his turn, Savchenko’s lawyer Nikolai Polozov states that terrorists detained her 30 minutes before the mortar attack. The defense side has released the findings of expert review on moving of Savchenko’s mobile phone on June 17. According to these data, at the time of the shelling, it was in the regional recruiting office in the centre of Luhansk, where the militants’ headquarters is located now.

According to her defense lawyers, terrorists took Savchenko to Russia and handed her over to the federal Security Service (FSB).

Hunger strike

On September 16, 2014 Russian propaganda started to spin another lie – they say that the pilot ‘personally participated in torturing prisoners and wanted to harvest their organs’.

On December 1, 2014 Nadiya Savchenko embarked on an indefinite hunger strike. Savchenko managed to spend 83 days (nearly three months) without food, which is an unprecedented case in the history of medicine.

She lost more than 20 kilograms during the hunger strike. Ukrainian doctors forbade her to resume it. They say that a miracle never happens twice.

Nadiya is slowly gaining weight, but she still has problems with internal organs.

Ukrainian MP and PACE deputy

In January 2015 Savchenko became a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The PACE urged the Russian authorities to release delegate Savchenko.

In accordance with international agreements (which were adopted by Russia), Savchenko should be freed. However, Alexei Pushkov, Head of the Russian delegation to PACE, said that these requirements would make any sense if the Russian delegation remained in the PACE. It is to be recalled that Russia was deprived of voting there.

On June 10, 2015 Moscow City Court extended the period of Savchenko’s detention to September 30, 2015.

Nadiya will not be jailed, her lawyer Mark Feygin believes.

The international pressure on the Kremlin is strong enough, that is why keeping Savchenko in prison for 8 or 10 years would mean facing endless problems during this period of time.

“Savchenko’s trial will be landmark and headline-making. Everyone will see that Nadiya is innocent and Ukraine is contending for the Truth,” he says.

See also