A Ukrainian pilot began singing when she was found guilty of complicity to murder in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine.
Nadezhda Savchenko was convicted by a Russian court on Tuesday, but upon hearing the verdict, she interrupted the judge and began singing the Ukrainian national anthem loudly. The judge was forced to call a break before sentencing the 34-year-old to 22 years in prison.
Savchenko, who will also be fined for crossing into Russia illegally, has previously mocked the proceedings during the trial. She has also shouted that she is a victim in the courtroom. Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian President, has called the proceedings “a farce”.
In July 2014, Savchenko was serving as a volunteer with Ukraine’s ground forces when she was captured by pro-Moscow rebels. She then surfaced in Russia.
According to prosecutors, the pilot called in coordinates for shelling that killed two journalists near the Russian border the same month. Several civilians also died in the incident.
Upon sentencing, something that is likely to increase tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the judge said: “The evidence provided by the prosecution side is trustworthy and completely disproves the theory of the defence about Savchenko’s innocence.”
Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, wrote on Twitter: “The result is an expected one, but all the same it’s pretty painful… The ‘sentence’ is not the end of struggle. It’s the beginning of a new stage in the fight for Savchenko.”
Regarded a national hero in Ukraine, Savchenko has denied any wrongdoing. Since she was detained, she has been elected to the Ukrainian parliament as a member of the Fatherland party.
According to the Ukrainian government, Savchenko is a prisoner of war who should be released under current truce agreements.
Officials from Russia have suggest that after the trial, there may be room for negotiations about handing Savchenko over to Ukraine. This may form part of a prisoner exchange.
Additional reporting by agencies