Ukrainian MPs demand probe into former pilot Savchenko, allege treason


 Reuters International

Ukrainian lawmaker Nadiya Savchenko attends a hearing against Moscow's sentencing of Ukrainian prisoners Stanislav Klykh and Mykola Karpyuk, who were found guilty of fighting against Russian troops during the Chechen War in the 1990s, at Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow, Russia, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

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By Natalia Zinets

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian lawmakers called on Wednesday for an investigation into what they say are anti-Ukrainian actions by Nadiya Savchenko, a helicopter navigator who returned to Ukraine to a hero's welcome last year after being held in a Russian jail.

Savchenko, herself now a lawmaker, has sparked anger since her return by holding talks with pro-Russian separatists without the government's consent and also for publishing secret lists of people who were captured or are missing in the eastern conflict.

On Tuesday, she suggested Ukraine would have to relax its claim on Russia-annexed Crimea in order to win back control of the eastern Donbass peacefully -- a final straw for some lawmakers who demanded she be investigated.

"I would like to appeal to the State Security Service," Ivan Vinnyk told fellow lawmakers at a televised meeting of the parliamentary defence committee, which includes Savchenko.

Vinnyk said Savchenko had committed "deliberate acts to the detriment of Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty, national security - preliminary indicators of treason".

The criticism provides a sharp contrast to the fanfare that greeted Savchenko when she was freed in a prisoner exchange last May.

Captured on the frontline by Russian separatists and then held in jail on murder charges that she said were fabricated, Savchenko became a powerful symbol of resistance against Russia to many Ukrainians.

In a testy exchange during the committee meeting, Savchenko rejected the allegations against her.

"I'm very ashamed of the people here who at one time promoted themselves off the back of my name and continue to promote themselves off the back of names of political prisoners who are behind bars and continue to defend Ukraine in Kremlin prisons," she said.

"You were the first to show what betrayal is."

Asked about her Crimea comments, a Kremlin spokesman said on Wednesday different claims to the peninsula were not up for discussion, but added: "Russia is doing everything to promote a settlement of Ukraine's internal affairs."

Savchenko isn't the only prominent Ukrainian to find herself in hot water. Viktor Pinchuk, one of the country's wealthiest businessmen, sparked a backlash after writing an editorial in the Wall Street Journal in December arguing that Kiev had to make "painful compromises" to secure peace with Russia.

Around 10,000 people have died in the separatist conflict that erupted in 2014. Fighting continues despite a ceasefire being notionally in place since February 2015.

(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe in Moscow; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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