President Barack Obama called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to release an imprisoned Ukrainian pilot on March 17, and was promptly rebuked by Putin.
The pilot is being tried for the killings of two Russian journalists, reports the National Post. Nadezhda Savchenko is a former Ukrainian pilot who allegedly coordinated a mortar attack that killed multiple civilians and the two journalists.
Savchenko is being tried for accessory to murder, and a ruling is expected March 21.
Obama’s request to release Savchenko reportedly fell on deaf ears.
“Interference in our courts isn’t permissible and not possible,” said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman.
Savchenko’s attorney holds that the charges against her are baseless, and likely politically motivated, reports Newsweek. Her lawyer also claimed that Savchenko was captured by pro-Russia rebel fighters in Ukraine and passed to Russian authorities.
The defense claims Savchenko was imprisoned by the Russian authorities before the Russian journalists were killed in 2014.
This is not the first time Russia has drawn criticism for its prolonged imprisonment of the Ukrainian fighter pilot. On March 9, European Union politicians called for new sanctions on Putin and other high-ranking Russian officials over Savchenko’s imprisonment.
On March 16, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Polish member of the EU Parliament, posted a petition signed by 57 members of parliament calling for sanctions on Russian officials. The petition is reportedly addressed to High Representative for the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Frederica Mogherini, and calls Russia’s case a “shameful and blatant breach of international law.”
Savchenko’s case is generating considerable controversy in her home country of Ukraine. On March 6, protestors in the capital city, Kiev, rallied against her detention outside the Russian embassy, hurling rocks and food at the building.
Protestors held signs bearing the hashtag “#FreeSavchenko.”
Savchenko may be viewed as a national symbol by many Ukrainians as anti-Russian sentiment brews in the country. Pro-Russian rebels have been locked in a fight against Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of the country since 2014.