The defiance shown by captured Ukrainian volunteer Nadia Savchenko when she was on trial in Russia for allegedly murdering two journalists (by directing artillery fire onto them) made her a hero for some in Ukraine and a symbol of resistance to ‘Russian aggression’. On the other side of the conflict, many regarded her as a war criminal and a militant nationalist. It was to be expected when she returned to Ukraine after being pardoned by Vladimir Putin that she would add her voice to those urging an escalation in the war and that she would resist calls for political concessions to the rebels in Donbass.
The reality has been very different. Savchenko has become a voice for peace. Among other things, she has called upon the Ukrainian government to talk to rebel leaders Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky. And on Thursday, she shocked many by suggesting that Ukrainians needed to ask forgiveness from the people of Donbass. As Gazeta.ru reports, Savchenko told TV Channel 5:
We must start speaking with one another. We must start hearing one another. We will have to forgive a lot. And we will possibly also have to ask forgiveness. Not possibly, definitely. We need to learn to ask forgiveness and to forgive. Otherwise, there will not be peace.
Savchenko’s suggestion that there is guilt on both sides of the war in Ukraine has outraged nationalist politicians. Member of Parliament Anton Gerashchenko, for instance, replied: ‘You, Nadya, can and should ask forgiveness from Givi and Motorola, or other Russians who have come onto our land to kill and rape, but we will not ask forgiveness from occupiers and terrorists.’ Savchenko was a ‘Trojan horse’ sent by Putin to Ukraine, Gerashchenko remarked.
Given this reaction, I very much doubt that anyone in power in Ukraine will act upon Savchenko’s words. But the fact that somebody is saying them is most welcome.