Citing international documents, conventions, treaties when dealing with Russia is an exercise in futility. A more meaningful task would be locating a single international convention or treaty that Russia and/or its predecessor the USSR have not violated in large part or ignored entirely. Conventions and treaties nonetheless remain international norms of a civilized international community that must be taken into consideration when dealing with Russia. Russia' failure to comply, often arrogantly, should be perceived as an unwillingness on the part of Russia to be a part of that civilized international community with consequences. Thus Russia must be considered a pariah and a global danger much more significant because of its size than other states like Syria, Iran, North Korea or terrorist formations such as ISIS, al-Quada or the Taliban.
The case of the Ukrainian pilot and paratrooper held in Russian captivity is a glaring example of Russia's arrogance and refusal to play by the rules. Nadia Savchenko was captured by Russia's mercenaries on Ukrainian territory and transferred to their Russian lords for prosecution or persecution. It was at best a prisoner of war capture and at worst a kidnapping. In any event her detainment and treatment subsequently are interdicted by the Geneva Convention of 1949 or international criminal norms.
Savchenko has been subjected to interrogation without counsel, a month-long psychiatric evaluation and pretrial proceedings “in absentia”. She has been charged under the Russian Criminal Code. Geneva's Third Convention is quite clear that a POW cannot be charged with a criminal offense. Any wrongdoing must be adjudicated under international justice.
According to Mark Feygin, Savchenko's attorney, Nadia is not alone. There are some thirty Ukrainian service members being held in Russian jails. Russia refuses to recognize them as prisoners of war protected by Geneva.
Twenty two members of the U.S. House of Representatives have written to Secretary John Kerry to intervene with the Russians in this matter. Most recently the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe granted international immunity to Nadia and called for her immediate release from the Russian prison. Nadia had been elected to Ukraine's parliament in the October 2014 elections and was designated a member of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE.
Frankly, none of this matters. If Russia refuses to recognize Nadia as a POW then the only other explanation for her detainment in Russia is that she is a kidnap victim. She was not extradited to Russia at the request of the Russian government to stand trial for crimes committed in Russia. The bogus crime of which she is accused is the killing of two Russian journalists near Luhansk, in the war zone, which is on Ukrainian territory. There is evidence that the killings occurred after Nadia's capture. The Russian judicial system has no jurisdiction over the alleged crime. Let's not feign respect for that judicial system by suggesting that the process should play out. Under Geneva there is a presumption of POW status unless deemed otherwise by a “competent tribunal.” A Russian court is certainly not that “competent tribunal” envisioned by Geneva.
Nadia has declared and continues to pursue a hunger strike. Her life is in imminent peril. All avenues should be explored to prevent Nadia from dying and freeing her from Russian detention. Nevertheless the example of Nadia and the thirty other Ukrainian servicemen should not be forgotten in any partial resolution.
There can only be one conclusion: Russia is a terrorist state and should be recognized as such with attendant consequences. The West has displayed its disdain for Russian behavior since Russia first invaded Ukraine in February 2014 one week after Russia completed its international public relations farce at Sochi. The West has excoriated Russia at the United Nations on a score of occasions, imposed meaningful sanctions, shunned Russia from the G-8, embarrassed Russia at the G-20 in Australia (to which Russia should never have been invited in the first place), avoided Russia most recently in Davos. Still Russia remains arrogant and unrepentant. The only solution is to recognize that Russia is an international terrorist state and utilize all tools at the West's disposal to defeat Russia in Ukraine.
An arrogant and unrepentant Russia suffering an economic malaise resulting from sanctions is nonetheless a dangerous one. Even effective sanctions will take too long to bring Russia to her knees. A pariah militarily defeated is a much more malleable and treatable Russia ultimately. This expedited approach benefits the Russian people as well. No one is advocating behaving like Russia and taking the fight there. The Russian people will suffer less in the long term if their autocratic and oligarchic leaders lose more now. This requires immediate and serious arming and aligning militarily with Ukraine including offering Ukraine a map to NATO. Russia has exported terrorism over the last year and even more so over the last week with indiscriminate shelling resulting in killings of civilians in buses, market places and homes in Ukraine. Russia will never surrender. It must be subdued in Ukraine. The case of Nadia Savchenko is a glaring example of who the enemy really is. According to Russia, Nadia is not a POW with rights accorded by Geneva. She is a kidnap victim of a terrorist state. ,
January 27, 2015 Askold S. Lozynskyj