Ukrainian lawmakers must leave guns outside parliament

MOSCOW (AP) — Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved a bill requiring lawmakers to lock up their guns before entering the chamber.

The bill that obliges lawmakers to leave weapons and explosives in lockers follows last week’s statement by Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who accused lawmaker Nadiya Savchenko, of plotting an attack on parliament with grenades and automatic weapons.

The accusations followed Savchenko’s claim that Lutsenko was covering up the killings of protesters during Ukraine’s 2014 uprising.

Unidentified snipers killed dozens of people on the Maidan in February 2014, triggering public anger and leading to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula a month later and has supported a separatist insurgency fighting the government in eastern Ukraine since then.

Savchenko, a former military pilot who became a national icon after spending two years in a Russian prison, told reporters Tuesday that the administration of President Petro Poroshenko was planning to kill her.

Ukrainian media reported that Savchenko was carrying a pistol and three hand grenades when she attended a parliamentary session last week. Savchenko said she needed the weapons to protect herself.

Commenting on the top prosecutor’s accusations against her, she acknowledged that she had discussed plans to attack the country’s leaders but described them as being intended to make a mockery of the government, not a real threat.

Savchenko said she talked about such attacks as a “political provocation to make the government look ridiculous” and “make the government realize they are mortals.”

She added that she was aware that people whom she had discussed the plans for attack with would report them to the security agencies, and emphasized that she had no intention to carry them out.

Savchenko scathingly criticized the Ukrainian leadership, saying it failed to fulfill public hopes that followed the 2014 ouster of Russia-friendly Yanukovych. Savchenko said many soldiers whom she spoke with shared a strong resentment of the government.

Savchenko was elected to parliament in 2014, months after she was captured by Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine while serving in a volunteer battalion. She ended up in a Russian jail under disputed circumstances.

In March 2016, she was convicted by Russia of acting as a spotter for mortar fire that killed two Russian journalists. She was sentenced to 22 years in a Russian prison following a trial in which she wore an embroidered Ukrainian shirt, sang the national anthem and raised her middle finger in a show of contempt for Russian authorities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned her amid international outrage at her sentence, and she received a hero’s welcome at home in May 2016. She quickly fell out with Poroshenko’s government, accusing it of corruption and incompetence. She has remained popular thanks to her energy and charisma.

Later this week, the parliament is set to consider the prosecutors’ request to strip Savchenko of her immunity as a lawmaker.

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