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article imageUkraine war hero accused of parliament attack plot

By Olga SHYLENKO (AFP)     Mar 15, 2018 in World

A Ukrainian lawmaker once hailed as a hero and a symbol of resistance against Russia, has been accused of plotting a terrorist attack against the Kiev parliament, authorities said Thursday.

Ukraine's General Prosecutor Yury Lutsenko told lawmakers in parliament an investigation had "indisputable evidence" that Nadiya Savchenko planned a "terror attack" on parliament.

He claimed Savchenko had been plotting to destroy the chamber with grenades and mortar launchers and "finish off the survivors with automatic rifles."

Lutsenko offered no evidence, however.

Parliament on Thursday voted to expel Savchenko from its national security and defence committee.

In 2014, the 36-year-old former combat pilot was captured while fighting against Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and found guilty of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists in the country's war-torn east.

She spent around two years in a Russian prison and became a symbol of Ukraine's resistance, launching several hunger strikes.

Savchenko returned to a hero's welcome to Kiev in May, 2016 as part of a prisoner swap with Russia.

But her political star has faded since her return to Kiev where she became a lawmaker for former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko's political party.

She has regularly stirred controversy and contradicted President Petro Poroshenko's policies by supporting direct talks with pro-Kremlin separatists and visiting rebel-held territory.

- 'Fighting Ukraine's enemies' -

On Thursday, Savchenko did not confirm or deny the accusations but said she'd support a "military coup" in Ukraine.

"Ukrainians, ask yourselves -- didn't any of you at least once think about destroying these authorities?" she told reporters before being questioned by the security service.

"Who did not think about blowing up" the presidential administration or the Verkhovna Rada parliament?" she said, sporting her signature cropped haircut.

She also accused Poroshenko of corruption and crimes against the Ukrainian people, claiming a lot of members of the military would support a coup.

She said she had recently spoken to members of the European Parliament, drawing their attention to the "crimes of our authorities."

She added she was not afraid.

"In Russia, I fought against Ukraine's external enemies. In Ukraine I am fighting against Ukraine's internal enemies."

The accusations against Savchenko were levelled after authorities last week charged a prisoner swap negotiator, Volodymyr Ruban, with plotting to assassinate Poroshenko and other top officials.

A judge in Kiev said Ruban planned to use mortar fire and grenades to attack the presidential administration and parliament.

The security service said that the entire operation was orchestrated by the separatist leadership and at least tacitly approved by Russia.

On Monday Savchenko was summoned for questioning by Ukraine's security service as a witness in Ruban's case.

Last year, both Savchenko and Ruban went to the rebel-controlled stronghold of Donetsk to visit Ukrainians captured by the separatists.

- Authorities 'not trusted' -

Political observers say that even though Savchenko enjoys little support now, the Ukrainian authorities also have lost much of their credibility over the past years.

"The problem is that those who voice these accusations are not trusted. People do not believe them," political analyst Mykola Davydyuk told AFP.

"It is clear that some sort of political process is under way but we don't know yet what this means."

He stressed that the prosecutors should release "firm evidence" implicating Savchenko in the crime.

Political analysts point to mounting public disillusionment in Ukraine with Poroshenko's government which came to power after a popular uprising ousted a Kremlin-backed regime in 2014.

After the bloody revolution Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea and supported an insurgency in the east of the country in a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives since April 2014.

More than 90 percent of Ukrainians believe that the political situation in the country is "critical" or "tense", the Rating independent pollster, said in February.

Fifty nine percent of respondents believe that Ukraine needs "radical change."

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