Where is Russia hiding Crimean political prisoner Oleg Sentsov?
UPDATE: Mikhail Romanov, a journalist from Yakutsk, has learned that Sentsov arrived at a remand prison in Yakutsk on March 17. For the moment it is better to use the address given at the bottom.
Russian rights activists have called on colleagues, particularly in the Far East of Russia, to try to locate Crimean filmmaker and political prisoner Oleg Sentsov whose whereabouts have been unknown for over two weeks. As reported here, Sentsov was unexpectedly moved two weeks ago. Then Tatyana Shchur from the Chelyabinsk committee which visits prisoners suggested that the haste and secrecy might be linked with the international attention to Nadiya Savchenko and all Russia’s Ukrainian prisoners, of whom Sentsov is the most well-known.
Russia has nothing to gain from harming the recognized political prisoner whose release is demanded under the Minsk Agreement. It is, however, clear that Moscow is making every effort to hide the four Crimean opponents of Russia’s annexation of Crimea sentenced on grotesque ‘terrorism’ charges. Shchur learned that Sentsov had been moved through a text message from an unknown telephone, and there has been no information at all since.
The period during which prisoners are moved from one prison to another is always grueling and dangerous, since the person has no contact with their lawyers, let alone their family. In Sentsov’s case, it was initially reported that he was being taken to Siberia. Then it transpired that the final destination is the Yakutia region, which he could easily have reached by now.
Tatyana Shchur stresses that although the Russian Penal Service is allowed to refuse to divulge information about a prisoner’s whereabouts, the head of an individual SIZO [remand prison] must inform if a person is in their SIZO.
The unwarranted punishments, etc., meted out to both Oleksandr Kolchenko in Chelyabinsk and Gennady Afanasyev in the Komi Republic make attention to all the prisoners imperative.
Sentsov, Kolchenko, Afanasyev and Oleksy Chirniy are all Crimeans who opposed Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. They were all arrested in May 2014, and held incommunicado for weeks before being taken to Russia. There, on May 30, the FSB or Russian Security Service claimed that they had been involved in a ‘Right Sector terrorist plot’. There was nothing to indicate any presence of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector in Crimea, and no evidence was ever demonstrated in court either of such a ‘plot’ or of the men’s involvement in it.
All are Ukrainians and were illegally taken from Crimea to Russia with the latter claiming that they have ‘automatically’ become Russian nationals. Kolchenko has lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights over this attempt to foist Russian citizenship on him.
There was almost total secrecy about the charges against them, and it was only with the trial that it became clear that there was absolutely nothing to warrant the charges of ‘terrorism’. There was nothing against Sentsov at all, only testimony given by Afanasyev and Chirniy while held incommunicado, without lawyers and under the total control of the FSB. The court ignored the lack of any evidence and Afanasyev’s courageous retraction of his testimony on August 31, 2015 as having been tortured out of him, and sentenced Oleg Sentsov to 20 years.
Kolchenko was sentenced to 10 years. The only thing he had done was take part in an act of protest involving the throwing of a Molotov cocktail. In declaring Kolchenko, Sentsov and Afanasyev political prisoners, the Memorial Human Rights Centre pointed out that similar Molotov cocktail incidents resulted in much less severe sentences.
The release of all four men is required under the Minsk Accords and has been repeatedly demanded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the US State Department and others.
Please write letters or postcards to all the men, and remind politicians in your country of their case.
If you can write in Russian, do, but avoid any discussion of the case or politics. If not, the following would be fine (cut and paste the words in Russian, and the same below with the addresses)
Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.
Мы о Вас помним. Держитесь!
Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten. [The last word is like ‘hang in there’)
Writing to Oleksandr Kolchenko, please enclose light-weight paper and an envelope so that he can reply.
Кольченко Александру Олександровичу, 1989 г.р.
Россия 456612, Челябинская обл., Копейск, ул. Кемеровская, 20., Кольченко Александру Олександровичу, 1989 г.р.
Write to the other men (and Oleksandr Kolchenko if it’s easier) by sending your letters to post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com, a civic initiative helping to get mail to Russian-held political prisoners They will deal with writing the envelope and sending it on. Just cut and paste the names as given below (the year of birth after their name is required by the prison service),
Сенцову Олегу Геннадиевичу, 1976 г.р. post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com
Афанасьеву Геннадию Сергеевичу, 1990 г.р.
Чирнию Алексею Владимировичу, 1981 г.р. post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com