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Ukrainian Pilot Jailed in Russia Launches New Hunger Strike

FILE - Ukrainian jailed military officer Nadezhda Savchenko sits in a cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia, March 4, 2015. Savchenko launched a hunger strike on April 6, 2016, to demand her return to Ukraine, according to her lawyer.

Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukranian military pilot jailed in Russia for allegedly killing two Russian journalists, launched a hunger strike Wednesday to demand her return to Ukraine, according to her lawyer.

Savchenko’s lawyer Mark Feigin said on Twitter that she started a “dry” hunger strike, in which she is refusing both food and water. Feigin also posted a letter from Savchenko demanding that she be released by Russian authorities and calling for her “immediate return” to Ukraine.

A Russian court sentenced Savchenko last month to 22 years in prison after finding her guilty of killing two journalists during a shelling campaign in east Ukraine while Russian-backed rebels fought with the Ukrainian government.

Since the trial began, Savchenko denied the charges against her but refused to appeal the court’s guilty verdict. She has said she doesn’t recognize Russia’s legal authority, and instead, has chosen to subject herself to several hunger strikes.

The United States has joined other European countries in condemning Russia for Savchenko’s detention, and she has reached the status of hero in Ukraine, where she was elected to parliament despite being imprisoned.

According to a statement on his website, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called Savchenko Tuesday to tell her about “the latest steps taken for her release,” and that “justice will certainly prevail.”

Savchenko has been in detention in Russia for nearly two years.

Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.