By Voices of Ukraine
“This is not suicide but the only method of fighting available to me.” –Nadiya Savchenko
Yesterday (Jan. 11), Mark Feygin, the attorney for Nadiya Savchenko–a former Ukrainian pilot and now Member of Parliament who was kidnapped and abducted to Russia and is being illegally held on false charges as a Russian captive (perhaps hostage is closer to it)–tweeted an open call for worldwide participation in the January 26th global campaign to support Savchenko, now on her 31st day of a hunger strike in a Russian prison. 4 days ago she was put into solitary confinement for continuing her hunger strike. She takes only warm water and recently a glucose drip, adding only a cup of tea for Ukrainian Christmas. Today (Jan. 12), her lawyer Mark Feygin finally got a chance to meet with Savchenko with an intention to try to get her to stop the hunger strike, as she’s stated she wants to continue until the 26th. Previously, such entreaties by Batkivshchyna Party leader Yulia Tymoshenko were not heeded by Savchenko. And today, she reiterated that she will continue her hunger strike until she is on Ukraine’s soil or dies in a Russian prison. “I have given my word that ‘Until the day I return to Ukraine, or until the last day of my life in Russia!’ and I will not back down, otherwise what value would my words have?! – she writes in her letter today. (Full translation of her letter here).
Nadiya Savchenko is an elected member of Parliament (Batkivshchyna Party), the hope is that with full delegate authority in PACE she will gain diplomatic immunity and the government of the Russian Federation should release her from custody. This was announced by her lawyer. However, that immunity may only exist for the delegate’s country of origin and not extend to Russia as Russian authorities are claiming. PACE President Anne Brasseur is visiting Kyiv on January 15-16 and perhaps some possibilities may still be worked out.
Mark Feygin also wrote on his Twitter:
“On January 26, the opening day of the PACE session, [I] call to enter the global rally in support of Savchenko, around the world.”
In a separate tweet he also wrote that for the January 26th action there are “no chiefs, no organizers, and so on.” “Coordinate yourselves, organize yourselves” – the lawyer added.
On January 5, social networks launched an online action in support of Savchenko. Activists created and disseminated materials with information about the Ukrainian pilot/MP in Twitter and Facebook networks, with the hashtag #FreeSavchenko. Actions under this hashtag are initiated by British activist Alex King @Glasnost Gone who’s been working very hard to get the word out and to compile statistics and videos on some key Ukrainian issues, Savchenko’s imprisonment being one of them. He is joined by many others including Voices of Ukraine (@maidantranslations.com) and EuromaidanPress (@EMPR), Digital Maidan was asked by the lawyers to help put a twitter storm together as well, and so on outward through the networks of contacts everyone has, in a rhizomatic fashion. Multitudes of other activists have been working enthusiastically on Twitter and in letter writing to media, politicians and PACE members as well. The idea being that a lot of smaller community organizations are now beginning to unite across borders to combine efforts and speak as one united powerful voice for Ukraine on pressure point issues. Please continue to do so within all of your organizations for this action! As Alex King says:
“I joined twitter to try and unite people; to get us all shouting with one voice. Ukrainians all over the world now feel part of something and can help Ukraine. We fight for Nadiya, but by doing so we fight for Ukraine and keep her in the news.”
Currently, there have been around 150,000 tweets since #FreeSavchenko was started on November 19, 2014 and by the 26th this should increase to 200,000. The goal is to reach 1 million tweets on January 26th. As King states, “Much of the media ignore Twitter, campaigns/trends come and go, but its hard to ignore 1 Million Tweets. Also its impossible for the Kremlin to discredit, as the proof is there for all too see. The aim is to get Nadiya front and center in the world news on Jan 26th.”
Other goals are to raise global awareness of her plight as her hunger strike continues, to put pressure on media and politicians to raise their voices in outrage over her continued imprisonment under falsified charges and that of other Ukrainian political prisoners of war being held illegally by Russia (it is said that Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov is supposed to be released sometime this month by RF authorities but it is entirely unclear when). The Ukrainian captives are unable to get POW status because they are caught in a loophole without an official declaration of war or invasion by either side in this situation. This would de facto make them hostages, even though they are clearly POWs and political prisoners.
On January 26th:
Please have a selfie image like the ones below holding up the #FreeSavchenko hashtag sign prepared to tweet on or before January 26. Take it to hold near something iconic where you live, use your own language as well as the hashtag, let us know where you’re from in the world! Put it on your puppy or cat. The purpose of this kind of photo is to give the media some human interest images to show if they report on the action (and we want to encourage them to report as much as possible as one of the goals of the Twitter storm), so remember to also tweet it to your local or favorite media people. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #FreeSavchenko for every single tweet! We need to take the total tweets to 1 million together! And keep tweeting and retweeting the ones at #FreeSavchenko.
If you don’t use Twitter, please feel free to send your images here or post them to our Voices of Ukraine–Official FB page.
“But I want to reassure you that I have never been weak and never will be! They cannot break my spirit, and I’m not going to get into battle with the prison guards! The main thing is to hold out in spirit, and my physical strength will recover. .. And if God has need for something else, then so be it … the loss of one fighter is a very great loss, but it is in no way a lost war! Ukraine will win!” –Nadiya Savchenko (January 12 letter from prison)
Kharkiv Human Rights Group: Nadiya Savchenko will not end her hunger strike nor let them break her spirit
Kharkiv Human Rights Group: Write to PACE: Nadiya Savchenko has been on hunger strike for 29 days
Washington Post, UA News: Russia’s illegal prisoners of war