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What Does Savchenko's Return Mean For Ukrainian Politics?
3 June, 2016
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What You Need To Know:

✓ As an MP with the Batkivschyna party, combined with an untainted popularity with the Ukrainian people, Savchenko’s return has many in Kyiv wondering what the political effects will be, and whether she could potentially become Ukraine’s next president;

✓ “Political class is afraid of what she’s bringing: radical politics, radical rhetoric, and she could become a visible figure or even a leader in the far-right movement in Ukraine;”

✓ It is important to remember the small things including what it is like to be a Ukrainian woman today, and that Savchenko had to get permission from Ukraine’s ex-minister of Defense to become a pilot and to volunteer in Donbas;

✓ “She has a good starting position; she has a natural background to be a visible leader but will she be able to use this starting position in her favor or should she become a politician?”

Detained Aidar battalion soldier Nadiya Savchenko was released by Russia this week in an exchange that saw her flown in from Rostov in Southern Russia as a trade for two Russian military intelligence operatives captured in Donbas. As an MP with the Batkivschyna party, combined with an untainted popularity with the Ukrainian people, her return has many in Kyiv wondering what the political effects will be, and whether she could potentially become Ukraine’s next president.

According to Mykhailo Minakov, a professor at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the population of Ukraine reacted in different ways to the pilot’s return and when she landed, the reactions started changing. “Immediately the discussion turned to ‘what shall be the impact on the political situation now that Nadiya is in Kyiv?’ ” he says adding that the “political class are afraid of what she’s bringing: radical politics, radical rhetoric, and she could become a visible figure or even a leader in the far-right movement in Ukraine.”

Hromadske journalist Iryna Slavinska says that “people take the image of Nadiya very personally. I think it's very clear and understandable because it was a 2-year history. So she’s like a member of our families.” Slavinska also notes that in speaking about her struggle and life upon her return from Russian prison, that it is important to remember the small things including what it is like to be a Ukrainian woman today, and that Savchenko had to get permission from Ukraine’s ex-minister of Defense to become a pilot and to volunteer in Donbas.

Minakov says that upon Savchenko’s arrival in Kyiv, for a person just released from prison, she had a lot of energy, and was able to deliver a speech and attend many meetings. “She has a good starting position; she has a natural background to be a visible leader but will she be able to use this starting position in her favor or should she become a politician?” He adds that she is more of a combatant and that “her rhetoric and instructs are about this.”
Many of Minakov’s colleagues say that while Savchenko has undergone many tests in her life, she will now be tested by fame and political corruption. “So far, our politics and political competition was saved by corruption,” he adds.

Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk and Josh Kovensky spoke to Mykhailo Minakov, a professor at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and Iryna Slavinska, Hromadske Radio Journalist during The Sunday Show on May 29th, 2016 in Kyiv.