Ukrainians demand Russia release pilot, attack embassy

Associated Press

Kiev, Ukraine — About 2,000 people rallied on Independence Square in Kiev on Sunday to demand that Russia release Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, with hundreds then marching to the Russian Embassy to vent their anger by throwing eggs and rocks at the building.

Savchenko was captured in June 2014 while fighting with a Ukrainian volunteer battalion against Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. She is now on trial in Russia, accused of acting as a spotter who called in coordinates for a mortar attack that killed two Russian journalists and several other civilians.

After Sunday’s rally, several hundred protesters reached the Russian Embassy, where they burned a Russian flag and threw eggs at the building and at an effigy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which had a sign reading “killer” around its neck. One man wearing camouflage climbed over the fence and threw a rock through the window above the door.

Police were on the scene, but didn’t intervene.

On Saturday night, the Russian Embassy said it was attacked by men in camouflage armed with baseball bats, who badly damaged three embassy vehicles and threw smoke bombs. The embassy said it sent a formal note of protest to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

Savchenko declared a hunger strike on Thursday after the judge adjourned the trial for a week without allowing her to give her final statement. Her sister, Vera Savchenko, said at the rally they are monitoring her condition.

Prosecutors have asked for Savchenko to be found guilty and sentenced to 23 years in prison. A verdict is expected later this week.