Ukrainian War Hero Arrested on Coup Charges

Ukrainian opposition MP Nadiya Savchenko was arrested on March 22 for allegedly preparing a coup d’etat against the Ukrainian government. Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) agents detained Ms Savchenko inside parliament, after fellow MPs in the Rada voted to strip her of her immunity from prosecution and authorise her arrest.

According to the charges brought against her by the chief Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, Ms Savchenko planned an attack on parliament using grenades and automatic weapons acquired from pro-Russian separatists in the east. Undercover video footage shows her trying to persuade Ukrainian military personnel to join her plot.

Ms Savchenko, a fierce critic of the Ukrainian government, has claimed the whole thing is a plot by undercover agents working for the Ukrainian government to discredit her. She said she knowingly went along with the agents in order to reveal the scheme to the public.

“This is not a terrorist act, this is a political provocation to make the authorities look ridiculous,” Savchenko said in a statement.

“To accuse me of treason against Ukraine and to make anti-heroes out of yesterday’s heroes simply because they do not agree with the policies and positions of the current government, that’s all the authorities can do,” she said.

Ms Savchenko, a former army helicopter pilot, first came to public prominence when she was captured in June 2014 fighting Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine. She was subsequently taken to Russia where she spent two years in prison, while on trial for illegally crossing the Russian border and the murder of two Russian journalists. Despite torture and threats of rape she defied the Kremlin with a series of hunger strikes and other protests. Feted as a hero on her return to Ukraine in 2016 – as part of a prisoner swap – she took her seat in parliament having been elected in abentia MP in 2014’s parliamentary election, standing as a candidate for the All-Ukrainian Union party.