Ukrainian pilot held in Russia faces 25 years in jail

Moscow (AFP) - Russian investigators said Monday that a Ukrainian pilot controversially detained in Moscow faces up to 25 years in prison for her alleged involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists.

Nadezhda Savchenko, Ukraine's first female military pilot, has been accused of abetting the deaths of Russian journalists Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, who were killed by mortar fire in eastern Ukraine last summer.

Russian investigators claim they have "irrefutable evidence" the 34-year pilot informed Ukrainian forces of the journalists' movement and is thus complicit in their deaths. Kiev has denied the journalists were targeted.

"In light of the evidence collected, investigators have reclassified the actions of the accused. She is now being held responsible not as an accomplice but as the co-executor of the premeditated murder," Russia's Investigative Committee said in statement Monday.

"The maximum sentence that Savchenko faces is 25 years in jail," the statement said.

Investigators said that they have now completed their probe and prosecutors told the TASS news agency that the case had been forwarded to a court in southern Russia.

Savchenko -- who claims she was captured by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and taken to Russia in June against her will -- has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

But Russian investigators say she crossed the border illegally herself and have claimed she was arrested on Russian territory, allegations her defense and rights activists have dismissed.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the European Union have urged Russia to release her, as have rights groups including Amnesty International.

Savchenko, who was elected in absentia to the Ukrainian parliament in October, garnered international attention with a hunger strike that lasted more than 80 days.