Protesters gathered outside the Russian embassy in Kiev on 9 March to demand the release of a Ukrainian female pilot Nadezhda Savchenko detained in Russia. Protesters urged Moscow to free Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot on trial in Russia on charges of complicity in the killing of two Russian journalists. Savchenko, 34, was captured by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine in June 2014. She denies any wrongdoing.
On 3 March, Savchenko went on hunger strike to protest against the length of what she said was unjust legal process after the trial judge adjourned proceedings just as she was about to deliver her final speech.
"We demand an end of this shameful, unjust trial over Nadezhda, that she will be released unconditionally, that she will be brought back to her homeland. And we are waiting for her to end her hunger strike because we need her alive. She is a symbol of our nation, she is a symbol of an unbroken Ukraine, a symbol of an independent Ukraine. And we need her very much alive," said one protester, Irina.
One protester threw eggs at the Russian embassy as Ukrainian national guard troops stood along the building's fences. The protests followed incidents over the weekend. Russia's embassy in Kiev sent a note of protest to Ukraine's foreign ministry on 6 March about attacks on the embassy's cars, the RIA news agency quoted embassy spokesman Oleg Grishin as saying.
Savchenko, an helicopter pilot, made a defiant last statement at a court in Russia, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not hold on to power and showing the court her middle finger. The United Nations, the United States and Great Britain urged Russia to release Savchenko, though Moscow says her detention was legal.
"Nadiya Savchenko became stronger than all world diplomacy. And now it is a challenge for the whole civilised world to force [Vladimir] Putin to release the Ukrainian Nadiya Savchenko," said Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk.
Savchenko, who faces up to 25 years in jail if found guilty, has become a national hero for many in Ukraine who see her as a symbol of anti-Kremlin defiance.