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06.06.2018

Call for Political Boycott of the World Cup in Russia until the Kremlin’s Ukrainian hostages are freed

   

The Russian Federation is holding 70 Ukrainian political prisoners in custody. Many of them have been convicted under torture and using false evidence. 

President of Argentina Mauricio Macri

Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull

King of the Belgians Philippe, Prime Minister of Belgium Charles Michel

President of the Federative Republic of Brazil Michel Temer

President of the Republic of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos

President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada

President of the Republic of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Premier Minister Andrej Plenković

Queen of Denmark Margrethe II, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen

President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail

President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe

Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Angela Merkel

President of Iceland Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani

Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe

Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea Lee Nak-yeon

President of the United Mexican States Enrique Peña Nieto

President of the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco Saadeddine Othmani

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari

President of the Republic of Panama Juan Carlos Varela

President of the Republic of Peru Martín Vizcarra

President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki

President of the Portuguese Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Prime Minister António Costa

King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

President of the Republic of Senegal Macky Sall, Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne

President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić

King of Spain King Felipe Vi, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven

President of the Confederation of Switzerland Alain Berset

President of the Republic of Tunisia Beji Caid Essebsi, Head of Government Youssef Chahed

Queen of the United Kingdom Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Theresa May

President of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay Tabaré Vázquez

Your Majesties, esteemed representatives of the citizens of your states!

The main football event of the year, the World Cup, is drawing closer. It will take place in Russia despite this country occupying the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, unleashing a war in eastern Ukraine, supporting the brutal dictator Assad and war crimes in Syria, curtailing the democratic rights of its own citizens, repressing the indigenous population of occupied Crimea - the Crimean Tatars, interfering in the elections of western countries and unleashing a disinformation campaign against them.

Your excellencies, the list of Russia’s crimes can be continued, however, one stands out. On 14 May, the jailed Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who had resisted the occupation of his native Crimea in 2014, announced a termless hunger strike. The only condition for ending it is the "release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held on the territory of the Russian Federation". There are at least 70 such prisoners, and the number increases each day.

Oleg was sentenced to 20 years in a penal colony as a result of a falsified trial. Other political prisoners have been convicted in a similar manner: on the basis of false "confessions" obtained under torture, fake witnesses, planted ammunition. The latter was the reason for the arrest and conviction of Volodymyr Balukh, a Crimean farmer who rejected the occupation of Crimea and kept raising a Ukrainian flag over his house. Balukh is holding a termless hunger strike for over 70 days since 19 March, balancing between life and death. Also on hunger strike, in solidarity with Sentsov, are Oleksandr Kolchenko and Oleksandr Shumkov. The number of arrests and sentences grows with each day. Just on 4 June, Ukrainian journalist Roman Suschenko was sentenced to 12 years of "severe regime" imprisonment in Russia on baseless mystery “spying” charges. All these tragedies go unnoticed by the world.

Russia has established a real repression machine in occupied Crimea. Civic activists among Crimean Tatars are being arrested in droves and accused of terrorism. Also accused of terrorism is the 19-year old Ukrainian Pavlo Hryb, whom the FSB kidnapped while he was on a trip to Belarus. The list of political prisoners is long and each name in it represents a shattered fate and children left to grow up without parents (see more information here).

Your Excellencies, all of these Ukrainians became victims of Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine. In authoritarian Russia, their purpose is to be broadcast on state TV playing the role of "enemies," "terrorists," and "extremists," inciting the hatred of Russians towards Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, and ramping up support for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive politics.

Oleg Sentsov has declared that he intends to hold the hunger strike until the fatal end. This is a realistic scenario: one has to only recall his letter from prison, where he wrote about Ukrainian political prisoners: "If we are destined to become nails in the lid of the tyrant’s coffin, then I would like to be such a nail. Just know that this nail will not bend." And he told his lawyer: "If I die before the World Cup or during it, then there will be a [public] resonance in favor of the other political prisoners."

A hunger strike is the only weapon that the imprisoned filmmaker has to counter the horrendous injustice against 70 Ukrainian citizens.

Your Majesties! You, the powerful of this world, have another weapon. One of the dreams of Vladimir Putin is to use the presence of foreign dignitaries at the tribunes of the World Cup to embellish his image of a "strong leader" and as visual support for his politics of repressions and wars. You can take the side of the filmmaker who was sentenced for protesting the occupation of his native Crimea by joining the political boycott of the World Cup, inviting others to follow your lead if you have already done this, and calling upon Russia to fulfill the demands of Oleg Sentsov and release all Ukrainian political prisoners. History shows that leaders of authoritarian states prefer to put on a mask of mercy before sports events.

The full list of signatories is here:

Willem Aldershoff, former head of unit, European Commission, analyst international affairs, Brussels, Belgium

Alim Aliev, program director, Crimean House, Ukraine

Victoria Amelina, writer, Ukraine

Yuriy Andrukhovych, writer, Ukraine

Ivan Andrusiak, writer, Ukraine

Anne Applebaum, journalist, historian, USA

Antoine Arjakovsky, historian, France

Larysa Artiugina, film director, project leader NGO NewDonbas, Ukraine

Kateryna Babych, No Borders Project, Committee of Solidarity with Crimean Hostages, Kyiv, Ukraine

Marieluise Beck, former State Secretary, Alliance 㥢/The Greens (Germany)

Мark Bielorusets, translator, Ukraine

Andriy Bondar, writer, Ukraine

Kateryna Botanova, journalist, curator, Switzerland/Ukraine

Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council, USA

Maksym Butkevych, human rights defender (No Borders Project, Committee of Solidarity), Ukraine

Artem Chapeye, writer, Ukraine

Simas Čelutka, Head of European Security Programme, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, Lithuania

Yevgen Chernykov, actor, Ukraine

Halyna Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Ukraine

Mustafa Dzhemilev, Crimean Tatar leader, political prisoner during the USSR

Danilo Elia, journalist, Rai - Radiotelevisione italiana, National Public Broadcasting of Italy

Michel Eltchaninoff, philosopher, France

Andrew Fesiak, International Director, Final Cut Media, Ukraine

Leonid Finberg, sociologist, cultural researcher, director of Center for Studies of History and Culture of Eastern European Jewry, Ukraine

Gregory Frolov, director of Free Russia House, Kyiv, Ukraine

Svetlana Gannushkina, human rights defender, Russia

Nina Garenetska, musician, Dakhabrakha band, Ukraine

Georg Genoux, Theatre/film director, Germany/Ukraine

Anastasiya Gernega, Chairperson, NGO Touchpoint, Ukraine

Iryna Gorban, art-manager, Ukraine

Marko Halanevych, musician, Dakhabrakha band, Ukraine

Rebecca Harms, MEP, Alliance 㥢/The Greens (Greens)

Markéta Hejkalová, writer, Czech Republic

Ola Hnatiuk, University of Warsaw, PEN Club member, Poland

Yaroslav Hrytsak, historian, Ukraine

Jakub Janda, Director, European Values Think-Tank, Prague, Czech Republic

Andrey Khadanovich, litterateur, Belarus

Borys Khersonsky, writer, Ukraine

Oleksandra Koval, head of the Publishers’ Forum NGO, Ukraine

Maxym Kurochkin, playwright and screenwriter, Ukraine

Askold Kurov, filmmaker and producer, Russia

Myroslav Laiuk, writer, Ukraine

Philippe de Lara, professor of political science, France

Anastasia Levkova, writer, journalist, Ukraine

Danylo Lubkivsky, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine (2014), Diplomatic advisor to the Prime Minister of Ukraine (2015-2016)

Edward Lucas, London, UK

Olesya Mamchych, writer, Ukraine

Myroslav Marynovych, former Soviet political prisoner, Ukraine

Juraj Mesik, global risks analyst, Slovakia

Diana Matsuzaki, journalist, Hungary

Marina Meseguer, journalist, Spain,

Patryk Michalski, journalist, Poland

Vitalii Moroz, Internews Ukraine, Ukraine

Mustafa Nayyem, member of Parliament of Ukraine

Oleksandra Nazarova, psychologist, Ukraine

Andriy Nikitchyuk, Euromaidan Press, Ukraine

Tetiana Okopna, translator, Ukraine

Oleksiy Panych, philosopher, Ukraine

Tetiana Pechonchyk, Human Rights Information Center, Ukraine

Kateryna Petrovska, writer, Ukraine, Germany

Nataliia Popovych, Co-Founder, Ukraine Crisis Media Center

Anzhela Prazdnichnykh, medical doctor, Belgium

Antje Rempe, Germany, President of the association for partnership between the twin cities of Kharkiv and Nuremberg

Mykola Riabchuk, writer, Ukraine

Oleksandra Romantsova, Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine

Olexander Scherba, Ukrainian Ambassador to Austria

Anton Sliepakov, musician, Dakhabrakha band, Ukraine

Arkadiy Shtypel, poet, translator, Russia

Roman Shutov, EaP Strategic Advisor, Baltic Centre for Media Excellence, Ukraine

Alya Shandra, Euromaidan Press, Ukraine

Konstantin Sigov, Director of the European Humanities Research Centre, National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”, Ukraine

Ostap Slyvynsky, writer, Ukraine

Bohdana Smyrnova, filmmaker, New York/Kyiv

Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University, USA

Alice Stollmeyer, Executive Director, Defending Democracy, Belgium

Maksym Strikha, professor of physics, writer, Ukraine

Sergiy Sydorenko, European Pravda, Ukraine

Joanna Szostek, researcher, Royal Holloway University of London, Great Britain

Liudmyla Taran, writer, Ukraine

Tetyana Teren, journalist, Ukraine

Halyna Tkachuk, writer, Ukraine

Olena Tsybulska, musician, Dakhabrakha band, Ukraine

Halyna Tytysh, journalist, Ukraine

Andreas Umland, Senior Fellow, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Ukraine

Oleksandr Vilchynskyi, writer, Ukraine

Pavlo Volvach, writer, Ukraine

Natalia Vorozhbyt, playwright and screenwriter, Ukraine

Maryna Vroda, director and writer, Ukraine

Wira Wowk, writer, translator, PEN Club member, Brazil

Volodymyr Yermolenko, UkraineWorld, Internews Ukraine, Hromadske.ua, Ukraine

Pavlo Yurov, independent director and actor, Ukraine

Iryna Zabiiaka, translator, Kyiv, Ukrainereza Semotamová, Writers in Prison Committee of the Czech PEN Centre, Czech Republic

Oksana Zabuzhko, writer, Ukraine

Yevgeniy Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Ukraine

Alla Zamanska, TV Director, Ukraine

Serhiy Zhadan, writer, Ukraine

Bohdan Zholdak, writer, Ukraine

If you would like to sign the letter, please fill out this form.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/open-letter-in-support-of-ukrainian-political-prisoners

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