Ukraine war hero faces life in prison over parliament attack plot


Kiev (AFP)

A Ukrainian lawmaker once hailed as a hero and a symbol of resistance against Russia could face up to life in prison for plotting a terrorist attack in Kiev, authorities said Friday.

Former combat pilot Nadiya Savchenko, 36, is accused by prosecutors of planning "a large-scale terrorist attack" in Kiev that would have brought a "sea of blood,".

Prosecutor Oleksandr Bannyk said Friday the authorities had "sufficient grounds" to suspect Savchenko of plotting the attack which he said was punishable by up to life in prison.

Savchenko was stripped of her immunity on Thursday by parliament, which also authorised her arrest.

On Friday, she declared a hunger strike as a court in Kiev was to decide whether she should be remanded in custody.

Sporting a black jersey with a white trident, Ukraine's state emblem, Savchenko said the case against her was "politically motivated."

She added that she had been under surveillance for around a year.

Speaking to lawmakers in parliament, Lutsenko accused the woman of making a deal with leaders of Russian-backed separatist regions to obtain weapons and sow chaos in Kiev.

He showed lawmakers a 30-minute video of a woman who looked like Savchenko speaking about plans to attack parliament.

"I myself will certainly be able to throw six grenades," the woman in the video said.

Savchenko herself watched the broadcast with a smile but did not provide any explanation.

She has not confirmed or denied the accusations against her but said earlier she would support a "military coup" in Ukraine.

In 2014, the woman was captured while fighting against Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and found guilty of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists in the country's war-torn east.

She spent around two years in a Russian prison and became a symbol of Ukraine's resistance, launching several hunger strikes.

Savchenko returned to a hero's welcome to Kiev in May, 2016, as part of a prisoner swap with Russia.

But her political star has faded since she became a lawmaker for former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko's political party.

She has regularly stirred controversy and contradicted President Petro Poroshenko's policies by supporting direct talks with pro-Kremlin separatists and visiting rebel-held territory.