So it finally happened. Nadia Savchenko was released from Russian captivity today and sent home to Kyiv in exchange for two captured spetsnaz soldiers Aleksandrov and Erofeev. What you are reading here is the article I had planned to write for roughly a month, after there had been rather hopeful talk about her release in late may, i.e. now. Of course I could have written this same article regardless of when she was released, so long as she was released at any point before actually serving out the 22-year sentence the court had given her.
If you’re not familiar with Nadia Savchenko, you can read an explainer here. You can also read some key testimony (which was never heard in court) here. For those of you who want the gist right now, Savchenko was captured by forces of the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” and layer conveyed across the Russian border. She would later be accused of killing two Russian journalists by directing mortar fire on them. If you want the prosecution’s basic case, it goes something like this:
Nadia Savchenko, motivated by hatred of Russian-speaking people, somehow managed to deliberately direct mortar fire onto two Russian journalists. She then decided that she, hating Russian-speakers so much, should attempt to flee into Russia claiming to be a refugee. That part about being motivated by hatred of Russian-speakers was actually part of the charge, and the second part was the story behind the charge of illegally crossing the Russian border. Every major point in this narrative, the hatred of Russian-speakers, the “murder” itself,” and the sudden decision to escape the detested Russian-speakers by illegally entering Russia, is borderline insane. But this is a political trial, so naturally Savchenko was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy she’s free, but this exchange demonstrates how sinister and cynical the Russian government can be towards its own citizens. For starters, let’s actually take the Russian side at its word. All throughout the trial, pro-Kremlin media, blogs, comment trolls etc. all labeled Savchenko a murderer long before the trial was over. If anyone showed sympathy for her plight, some pro-Kremlin jackass would angrily remind you about how she murdered two innocent journalists, thus displaying a total lack of knowledge as to how mortars work. Having declared her guilty, the court officially labeled her a murderer. As far as I know, Russian authorities insist their courts are legitimate. Hence, as far as the Russian government’s concerned, Savchenko murdered two of its citizens and then illegally crossed their borders.
And then they just let her go. Exchanged her, to be sure, but they let her go. Also while rather hasty official explanation today said that the journalists’ widows asked Putin to pardon Savchenko, this doesn’t hold much water seeing as how this exchange had been alluded to much earlier. In fact I can’t say for sure now but I’m pretty sure that people had been speculating about a Savchenko/spetsnaz exchange well into last year. Russia just let her go, not after say, dropping the charges in the middle of the trial due to any number of plausible excuses, but after they had convicted her and labeled her a murderer of Russians.
This really is an injustice. Thanks to the Russian show-trial, we may never know the exact circumstances regarding the journalists’ deaths. Whether on the part of their bosses or the “rebel” fighters, negligence could very well have been a factor. And of course, there would have been no war had it not been for Putin and his clique. But if we draw the line below Putin and those responsible for coordinating the Donbas insurgency and subsequent war, there is a possibility that these journalists were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and nobody can truly be blamed. Yet even if we look at their deaths as nothing more than a random tragedy, they didn’t deserve to be used as the basis for a political trial against a person who was simply defending their homeland. Nor should their widows have been cynically used in a pathetic attempt to make Putin look merciful and wise.
Do you see the lesson yet? Have you learned something about the value of Russian life to Putin and his parasitical clique? Unable to show accountability for the deaths of two journalists killed in a war the Kremlin started, they decided to use those deaths in order to punish this Ukrainian woman, to make her an object of hate. And when this whole thing became a political mess- presto! She goes free, in spite of her conviction. Journalists? What journalists? Russians aren’t citizens, deserving rights. Like the victims of the Odessa massacre and the citizens of occupied Donbas, they’re all just props in the Kremlin’s reality show.
In case it wasn’t clear to you before, it ought to be now. Putin and his billionaire clique intend to fight down to the last Russian citizen rather than be held accountable for robbing their nation. Journalists Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk, from the perspective of the Kremlin, were expendable.The people of Russia are expendable.