Shaheen, Durbin Meet With Ukrainian Politician and Former Army Pilot Who Was Wrongly Imprisoned by Russian Government

September 21, 2016

**Nadiya Savchenko was released in May after being captured by Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, smuggled to Russia and imprisoned for two years**

**Durbin and Shaheen praise Savchenko for taking a courageous stand against Russian aggression**

Senators Durbin and Shaheen meet with Nadiya Savchenko

Senators Durbin and Shaheen meet with Nadiya Savchenko

(Washington, DC)—This afternoon, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Dick Durbin (D-IL)  met with Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian politician and former army helicopter pilot who was recently released from Russian prison. Savchenko is well-known in Ukraine as one of the first women to serve as a pilot in the Ukrainian Air Force. She is also a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, elected while she was imprisoned in Russia. Savchenko was one of 20 women political prisoners whose release had been sought by the FreeThe20 Campaign, established by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power in September 2015. During her imprisonment, Nadiya undertook an 80-day hunger strike to protest her imprisonment and proudly wore a t-shirt displaying the Ukrainian Trident during legal proceedings.

Today’s meeting was an opportunity for Senators Shaheen and Durbin to congratulate Savchenko on her release and thank her for the courage she displayed during her imprisonment. The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss Ukrainian economic and political stability, and the ongoing threat that Russia poses to the nation’s security and sovereignty.

Senators Shaheen and Durbin issued the following statement after meeting with Savchenko:

From the moment she was captured, the Russian government sought to make an example of Nadiya Savchenko, but instead, only demonstrated its disregard for human rights and international law. Through her courage and defiance, Nadiya delivered a powerful message to the Kremlin that Russia will not break the will of the Ukrainian people. It was a pleasure for us to meet with her today and reiterate the United States’ support for a prosperous, democratic and sovereign Ukraine.”  

Durbin, who serves as chair of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, last year sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to highlight Savchenko’s case and call for her release.   

Last year during a trip to Poland and Latvia, Senator Shaheen presented an Atlantic Council Freedom Award to Savchenko’s sister while Nadiya was still in prison, in honor of Nadiya’s courage defending and advancing the cause of freedom in her country. She also wrote a letter to the Russian Ambassador to the U.S calling for Savchenko’s immediate release.

Senator Durbin is the Assistant Minority Leader and Senator Shaheen is the Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation.