Russian prosecutor demands 23 years in jail for female Ukrainian pilot

Former Ukrainian army pilot Nadezhda Savchenko reacts inside a glass-walled cage as she attends a court hearing in the southern border town of Donetsk in Rostov region, Russia, March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A prosecutor asked a Russian court on Wednesday to jail Ukrainian military pilot Nadezhda Savchenko for 23 years, saying she was guilty of complicity in killing two Russian journalists reporting on the fighting in east Ukraine, Russian media reported.

The 34-year-old’s plight and defiant stance in captivity have made her a national hero for many in Ukraine, where she is considered a political prisoner. The West, as well as rights groups, have repeatedly called on Moscow to free her.

Prosecutors allege that in June 2014, Savchenko, who had transferred from the air force to fight with Ukrainian ground forces, helped to direct the fire of Ukrainian artillery in the Luhansk region where a shell killed two Russian television reporters.

Savchenko has gone on a hunger strike while in captivity and has denied any wrongdoing. She says she was spirited into Russia by Moscow-backed rebels after being captured in a day-long battle in June, 2014.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov and Jack Stubbs; Editing by Christian Lowe