A Russian court has begun hearing the high-profile case against Ukrainian officer Nadezhda Savchenko, who is charged in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine.

Russian investigators allege that Savchenko, who served in a volunteer battalion fighting with government troops against Russia-backed rebels, provided the coordinates for a mortar attack that killed the journalists in June 2014.

Savchenko, whose lawyers say was captured by the rebels and smuggled across the border into Russia, also is charged with entering Russia illegally. She has become a poster child for Ukrainians fighting the separatists, and top Ukrainian officials have campaigned for her release.

The trial began Tuesday in the small southern Russian town of Donetsk. Reporters and photographers were barred from the courtroom and watched the proceedings by video link.