Russian ministry ironic about Ukraine’s decision to reinforce border

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mocked Kiev’s decision to reinforce the border with Russia, jokingly suggesting that the government was seeking to prevent an exodus of its citizens ahead of the presidential election runoff.

“As the Ukrainian interior ministry had said, Ukraine started to reinforce the Ukrainian-Russian border as part of its Wall Project,” she said in a Facebook post. “They have chosen the right moment. Have they decided to prevent the exodus of voters in three weeks? Eventually, people will realize everything and start packing their things.”

The first round of presidential election in Ukraine on March 31. With 99% of the vote counted, showman Vladimir Zelensky (30.22%) and incumbent President Pyotr Poroshenko (15.92%) advanced into the runoff due on April 31.

“By the way, how is Nadezhda Savchenko doing? Has she exercised her constitutional right to vote? What does PACE say on the issue?” Zakharchenko said, referring to PACE’s demands to release Savchenko when she was serving her jail sentence in Russia.

Savchenko, a former Ukrainian military pilot who had taken an active part in Kiev’s military operation in eastern Ukraine, was detained in Russia in June 2014. She had been sentenced to 22 years in jail over complicity in the killing of two Russian journalists in east Ukraine.

She spent nearly two years in the Russian custody and was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 25, 2016. Upon her return to Kiev, Savchenko began an active political career as a member of the Ukrainian parliament.

However, she fell into disfavor of Ukraine’s authorities after her private trips to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine and talks with their leadership. The Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, stripped Savchenko of her parliamentary immunity and granted the go-ahead to detain and arrest her earlier in the year. A Kiev court put Savchenko into custody for two months on March 23, 2018, prompting her to declare a hunger strike. The court later rejected her appeal against the arrest and extended it for another two months.