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You Want Nadiya Savchenko? You Can Have Her!

Enjoy the trouble this Ukrainian 'Joan of Arc' will bring you


This post first appeared on Russia Insider

President Obama has just called on Vladimir Putin to release Nadezhda Savchenko who stands trial in Russia for complicity in murdering Russian journalists working in Donbass. Нere’s the reaction from a prominent Russian journalist.

Since the trial of Nadezhda Savchenko has been politicized from the start, there’s now a question of international practice in addition to the legal case, and we cannot ignore this. 

If Savchenko is convicted and imprisoned, even with a just maximum sentence, for the current Kiev regime and Ukrainian citizens who do not read the Russian media, she will have been wrongly convicted by Putin’s ‘bloody regime’. The same goes for the Western press and western human rights organizations, and finally, for domestic human rights activists and irreconcilable oppositionists.

In this sense, Savchenko has already become a political problem for Russia during the months of her incarceration. Which is why Russia should get rid of the problem by speedily exchanging here after her sentence is pronounced.

She will be an ‘innocent victim’ for a year or two: prizes, speeches at the Verkhovna Rada, PACE, the European Parliament and maybe before the US Congress, interviews, magazine covers, etc. But sooner or later (rather sooner than later) all that will end. A free ‘political prisoner’ is less interesting for the West than one who is in prison. 

But that’s not even the point. There is so much hype about the “political star” Savchenko in the Ukraine, as well as in the West, that she will never want to limit herself to lectures and prizes. She will expect a high place in Ukrainian policy-making.  

But with her temper, her cold rationalism and escapades (today I go on a hunger strike, tomorrow I end it, the day after tomorrow I’ll pick it up again) is only useful to the Kiev regime and to Poroshenko, Turchinov, Yatsenyuk and co, while she’s in the dock in Russia or in a Russian prison. But the day after she arrives back in Kiev, the idyll will end, starting with Yatsenyuk and Yuliya Timoshenko.

With her “heroic destiny”, her image as  ‘the Ukrainian Joan of Arc’ and her insatiable appetite for action, Savchenko stirs up the Kiev political elite to such an extent that their own catastrophically low ratings disintegrate further.  

Yuliya Timoshenko, the only ‘man’ in Ukrainian politics, has been fighting for the Savchenko to be freed. But as soon as that happens, Timoshenko will be faced with a rival ‘man’, as will Kiev’s other temporary rulers… 

Savchenko will remain a problem for Russia for another year or two, at most three, but less and less every month. She’ll become a real headache for the next few years of the Kiev regime’s existence and especially for its individual members.

Every month this headache will get bigger. She will no longer be sticking her middle finger to a Russian court but to Ukrainian politicians. And she’ll denounce them not to nameless journalists, but to the respected European media. And she’ll spout her nationalistic ideas and slogans a la Bandera, not in a tiny courtroom, but to the members of the European Parliament, causing the number of her distant fans to suddenly drop. 

Savchenko’s extradition will instantly transform her from a problem for Russia to a problem for the Ukraine and the West, which is why it should happen as soon as possible. 

By the way, if not Poroshenko himself, other Kiev politicians are aware of this. Which is why Kiev will almost certainly try to procrastinate over the extradition, posing endless impractical conditions. On the other hand, Poroshenko will have to face up to the fact that he has no alternative to a prisoner swap. And we should agree to it, with all this entails.     

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