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13.02.2015 | Halya Coynash

Berlin Arts Academy demand Russia releases Oleg Sentsov

   

The Berlin Academy of Arts has reiterated its demand that Russia frees Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who has been held in Moscow on fabricated ‘terrorism’ charges.  The Academy believes that any formal contact with Russian arts bodies would be inconceivable until he is released.

The announcement by Klaus Staeck, President of the Academy of Arts was made in connection with the renowned German film festival Berlinale and follows a written appeal endorsed by the 400 members of the Academy in September.  The Academy now calls for Ukrainian national Oleg Sentsov’s immediate release, and for him to be allowed to leave for Ukraine or any other country of his choice.

There have been many other appeals from European film makers and artists.  In June 2014 the Board of the European Film Academy initiated a letter to the Russian authorities expressing Oleg Sentsov.  That appeal was endorsed by Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar, Agnieszka Holland, Volker Schlöndorff, Betrand Tavernier, Andrzej Wajda and others.  Shortly afterwards Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov was reported to have said that he would also be interceding on Sentsov’s behalf.  

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Chad Gracia, director of the award-winning film “The Russian Woodpecker” had the following words in support of Oleg Sentsov:

And I want to just say a particular word for Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is now in Russian prison, in Moscow, on trumped up charges, he faces 20 years, and all he did was make movies and he questioned the Russian invasion of Crimea where he happened to be. So, this award is for those Ukrainians, people like Oleg. I hope we don’t forget about him. I don’t think we can stop Russia with bombs. But I think with a little bit of art and truth maybe we can make some progress. Thank you Sundance for being a platform and for supporting art and truth and for giving us this global platform to tell our story.”

Calls for Sentsov’s release have also come from governments and European bodies, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE].

As reported here, Russian investigators responded to calls from PACE for the release of Nadiya Savchenko and Oleg Sentsov by laying new charges.  In Sentsov’s case, almost 9 months after his arrest, he was suddenly charged under Article 222 § 3 (unlawfully obtaining, selling, possessing weapons, explosive substances and devices). 

Sentsov is a solo father with two young children.  His daughter was at home when the FSB appeared on May 10 and carried out a thorough search of their home.  Even were it remotely credible for a man with two small children to be ‘stockpiling’ weapons, it defies belief that it could have then taken 9 months for charges to be brought.

While attention is focused on Oleg Sentsov as a prominent film director, he is one of four opponents of Russia’s annexation of Crimea who were all arrested in May last year.  The only ‘evidence’ in this highly questionable case comes from one of the defendants Gennady Afanasyev who ‘confessed’ while under police control without access to lawyers and who appears to have made a deal with the prosecution.  He was recently sentenced to 7 years in a closed trial which the other defendants’ lawyers knew nothing about.  Since his testimony could be used to sentence Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko and Oleksy Chirny to 20 years imprisonment, it was clearly crucial that the defence had the opportunity to be at Afanasyev’s trial and cross-examine him.  More details here: Russian secret trial to convict opponents of Crimean annexation

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