Wednesday

16th Oct 2019

EU ministers to speak out on Ukrainian pilot

  • Mogherini's office has published six statements on Savchenko, but they "don't produce any effects," Linkevicius said (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

A handful of EU foreign ministers plan to speak out on Nadiya Savchenko at Monday’s (14 March) meeting in Brussels, amid a call by MEPs to broaden sanctions.

“Statements of concern from our [EU] side do not produce any effects, as this brave woman is dying in front of our eyes during this farce, which is called ‘court proceedings’ by Russia,” Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius told EUobserver ahead of the event.

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  • Austrevicius: "The only right response from us must be: those who are criminals are not welcome in the EU" (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

“We must strive for more effective actions so that the people involved … bear consequences,” he said.

Savchenko is a Ukrainian fighter pilot who was, according to the EU, abducted by Russia-linked forces inside Ukraine almost two years ago and taken to Russia.

Russia says she crossed the border herself in order to plot attacks.

It subsequently put her on trial in proceedings that were discredited by international observers. Her courtroom defiance and on-off hunger strikes have made her a hero in Ukraine.

An EU source said ministers from Poland, Romania, Sweden, and the UK plan to join Lithuania on Monday.

A British foreign office spokesperson told EUobserver it can’t “pre-empt” its minister’s statement.

But the spokesperson said: “We are deeply concerned by Nadiya Savchenko’s illegal trial and detention in Russia ... We will continue to raise Ms Savchenko’s case and call for her immediate release.”

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini is also expected to mention Savchenko in press briefings on Monday, an EU diplomat said.

But the case is not intended to feature in ministers’ formal conclusions the diplomat said.

Mogherini’s office has so far published six official statements on Savchenko to no avail.

The Polish, Romanian and Swedish ministries were not available to comment on Friday.

MEPs’ appeal

The foreign ministers' meeting comes after a cross-party group of 64 MEPs last week said those responsible for Savchenko's detention should be put under an EU visa ban and asset freeze.

They urged Mogherini to “initiate at the EU level the imposition of personal sanctions against those officials of the Russian Federation who are involved.”

They named 29 people, including Russian president Vladimir Putin because, they said “all power in the country is concentrated in [his] hands” and he is “responsible for the political decision” to detain her.

Most of the other 28 are little-known judges and prosecutors.

A parliament source told EUobserver: “Politicians have a right to ask for Putin to be on the list - then it's for diplomats to take him out and to explain that they want keep channels open and so on.”

Parliament has no formal say on EU foreign policy and member states often ignore its appeals.

It previously called for the EU to follow the US in listing Russian officials on human rights grounds over the case of slain Russian anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky.

But the EU’s Russia blacklist designates only people whose actions “threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”

Petras Austrevicius, a Lithuanian liberal MEP who initiated the Mogherini letter, said the EU should target human rights abusers.

“[Russia] is becoming a criminal state … The only right response from us must be: those who are criminals are not welcome in the EU,” he said.

Russia debate

With Savchenko in mind, foreign ministers will on Monday also hold informal talks on broader Russia relations.

“Every minister round the table will have a chance to say how things are going, what problems they face with Russia,” the EU diplomat said.

“Some might make reference to sanctions, but this isn’t the official subject,” the diplomat said, referring to EU economic sanctions on Russia, which expire in July.

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