By Iryna Yuzyk, Ratusha, Lviv gazette
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
Highlights from correspondent Irina Yuzyk’s interview with Nadiya Savchenko and impressions from her trip to Rostov, Russia which took her from Lviv to Kharkiv, Rostov, Novocherkask, Donetsk, Kamensk-Shakhtynsky and back to Lviv.
Nadiya has written a will and directed her lawyers not to appeal the verdict – since there is no court of justice in Russia, to appeal would be to create an illusion that there could be some justice. She has also said she will not go to jail and sew jerseys for Russian policemen. She says she can no longer read [no longer has the capacity]. She gets to shower once per week and is in solitary confinement in a small cell that holds her bed and a washbasin. She also walks in isolation; she does not even get to walk with a group and is thus denied communicating with people. But despite this she radiates hope, faith and victory. Tasty food that people give her no longer makes her happy because [as she says] what difference does it make without freedom? She understands after so long in jail how little a person needs: she says one can go 83 days without food. You can wear only one jacket all the time and having 2 shirts in one’s closet can be redundant, which is to say nothing of 2 houses or 2 cars.
In Novocherkassk jail, where Nadiya is detained, they allow her 2 visits per month through a glass window. One of them Nadiya gives to Ratusha correspondent Iryna Yuzyk who writes:
During the visit Nadiya talks a lot, jokes, and attempts to hold back my tears. Nadiya presses her palm against the glass, I press my palm against it from the other side. Her eyes redden only a little – she has too strong a character; for this Ukraine loves her, and in Russia they respect her.
You are determined to start a hunger strike after the verdict?
– “Yes. I will not be submitting an appeal. I will not agree to their verdict, whether it is 25, 20 or 15 years. When the verdict enters force, ie. within 10 days, I will go on a dry hunger strike, that is, without water.”
If the verdict is announced on December 24, Europe will not notice it because of the Christmas holidays …
– “I do not do this for them. I will not go into the zone. I will also not sew jackets for Russian cops!”
“I’m ready to be a driver for change. Yes, I still may not understand many of these things in politics. They may lead me astray and skilled politicians may use me for their own purposes. But they’ll have no luck – I learn quickly. Actually, you know, to me, it sometimes seems that for many people (even in Ukraine) it’s advantageous that I’m sitting here [in prison].”
Do you have contacts and cooperation with [Yulia] Tymoshenko’s party Batkivshchyna?
– “They do not hear me as much and don’t listen to me as much as I would like. Given the fact that we are working on the same case, I do not like this ignoring.”
Ordinary Ukrainians await you.
– “I know, they write me about it in letters. But I’m not a superhero. And I’m really not white and fluffy, and not an excellent student, and not holy. Oh, I’m afraid many people will be disappointed in me when I return to Ukraine.” (Laughs).
Do you plan to return to the army?
– “Most likely, yes. Someday I will return to the army – into one that I will rebuild personally, anew.”
Embrace the “big brother”
As with other political prisoners, during Savchenko’s trial, the court prohibited shooting video of Savchenko, taking photographs, or talking to the suspect. You can be present, you can record on a dictaphone and a notebook. When I drew a poster for Nadiya with words of support, the break guard came up to me and hissed: “If you wave that, we will lead you out of the courtroom.” “I’m not waving it, I’m drawing it,” – I said to him. My poster of support I received when Nadiya was already in the corridors of the court, and I could not even say anything to her unless in a whisper.
The desire to intimidate and to force everyone into silence – is their life ideology. In the courtroom there is protection for the present defendant, protection of the judges, public order. In general there are 10 people. Two people are in Balaklavas and flak jackets with automatic weapons, clubs, handcuffs. The yard is surrounded by courthouse security, a passport check happens there, and again at the entrance to the courtroom. There is also a metal detector. Metal detectors also stand at the train station, and there is always the speaker’s voice recalling the increased security measures due to the threat of terrorism.
When our group successfully left Russia (at last!), the police and security services visited the journalists of “STV” in Voronezh – who filmed the material for a future movie about Savchenko. They met in the room because of the “terrorist threat” and followed them on the street – advancing a theory claiming that they were planning to mine the hotel …
In Rostov I understood why my companions insisted on staying in hotels where the consuls and OSCE representatives lodge, and why you cannot walk the city at night, and only move around in a taxi. Everywhere they require your registration, even in the hotel – “Big Brother” wants to know where to find you, wants to take you to their base of “unreliables” or “potentials” or God knows what else. I did not take an international passport – there are too many Schengen visas and stamps from Western Europe in it. I do not hide my Lviv residence, hoping (maybe naively) that the Bandershtat’s hands will not reach me. I am calm for myself and my house in Lviv. But no Ukrainian can be calm about being in Rostov. When you almost physically feel this business of a solid “prison of nations,” you understand from what disaster the Revolution of Dignity [(Euro)Maidan] has saved Ukraine.
Oleh Mezentsev, the ATO fighter who made it out of the Savur-Mohyla “boiler,” said after a meeting with Nadiya, “When I talk with her for an hour – it gives one enough strength to live and believe for a month.” She is a unique case.
Her lawyer Ilya Novikov has said there is some possibility she will be exchanged still but only after a guilty verdict so that the Russian courts can save face: “We hope that after the verdict Russian officials will then be able to save face, to say that, yes, you see, we were right to blame her, then, maybe this [exchange] will be done. Before the verdict it will not happen.”
There is hope that she will return to Ukraine, and make changes in the Army, that she will work as a member of parliament on changing legislation to help pull the country out of the pit.
She says she is grateful for the support of all patriots. In the meantime she has also now drawn up her final will and is preparing for a serious hunger strike.
Iryna Yuzyk’s Ratusha gazette interview: http://ratusha.lviv.ua/index.php?dn=news&to=art&id=4388
Ilya Novikov interview in 112UA: http://112.ua/obshchestvo/savchenko-mogut-obmenyat-tolko-posle-vyneseniya-prigovora–novikov-277541.html
Yana Us from Nezhatin’s visit with Nadiya: http://nezhatin.com.ua/?p=16327
Radio Svoboda video of Vira Savchenko’s testimony in court today (in Russian): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTJxrpZ6yjE&feature=youtu.be