EU calls on Russia to free Ukraine pilot 'urgently'

Ukrainian army pilot Nadia Savchenko speaks inside a defendants' cage as she attends a hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow on Feb 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Ukrainian army pilot Nadia Savchenko speaks inside a defendants' cage as she attends a hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow on Feb 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union called on Russia Thursday to "urgently" release Ukraine military pilot Nadia Savenchko on humanitarian grounds after 75 days on hunger strike to protest her detention.

A spokesperson for EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said Russia "bears a responsibility for her very fragile health" after a Moscow court rejected Savchenko's appeal against her pre-trial detention.

Her release "would be in keeping with the recently agreed (Minsk ceasefire accords) ... and the commitment to release all hostages and detained persons related to the conflict in Ukraine," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko raised Savchenko's case at the Feb 12 Minsk summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

Savchenko, 33, is charged with involvement in the deaths of two Russian reporters killed in east Ukraine in June.

She is alleged to have been abducted by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and smuggled to Moscow. Russia says she crossed the border of her own accord, pretending to be a refugee.

Savchenko, who denies the charges, has become a symbol of resistance in Ukraine where she won a parliamentary seat in absentia in October.

On Monday, the German government said two German doctors had visited Savchenko on Feb 15 but gave no details of her condition.

The German foreign ministry however called for her release, voicing "serious concern" about her health.