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Ukrainian ex-pilot Savchenko on hunger strike in prison

December 5, 2018

FILE - In this Thursday, March 22, 2018 file photo, Nadiya Savchenko attends a parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine. A celebrated former Ukrainian military pilot in jail on charges of plotting an attack on parliament says she has started refusing food and water in protest. Nadiya Savchenko said Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 she wants to protest what she called blackmail and pressure by investigator. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A celebrated former Ukrainian military pilot in jail on charges of plotting an attack on parliament said Wednesday that she has started refusing food and water in protest.

Nadiya Savchenko called herself a political prisoner and said she wants to protest what she called blackmail and pressure by investigators.

Savchenko, a former military pilot, has been in custody since March on charges of planning to attack parliament with hand grenades and automatic weapons. She rejected the charges as an attempt by President Petro Poroshenko’s government to get rid of a powerful challenger before March’s presidential vote.

Savchenko became a national hero in Ukraine after she was captured by Russia-backed rebels during fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and ended up in a Russian prison.

In 2016, she was convicted by Russia of acting as a spotter for mortar fire that killed two Russian journalists and sentenced to 22 years in prison, but released shortly after the verdict amid international outrage. After returning home to a hero’s welcome, Savchenko quickly fell out with Poroshenko, accusing his government of corruption and incompetence.

Ukrainian prosecutors accused Savchenko of plotting a coup in collusion with Russia-backed rebels, and she was taken into custody in March after the parliament stripped her of her immunity. She denied the accusations, saying that she talked about attacking parliament as a “surrealist political provocation” to mock the government that she said has failed the public’s hopes.

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