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Oleg Sentsov’s detention extended again


Despite absolutely no evidence to substantiate terrorism charges against Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, a court in Moscow has ordered that he remain in detention till October 11.

38-year-old Oleg Sentsov has gained a world reputation for films such as Gaamer.  He was also bringing up two young children who have not seen their father since May when he and three other Crimeans, all active in peaceful protest against  Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, were arrested by the FSB or Russian Security Service.

Sentsov is accused of master-minding an alleged ’Right Sector terrorist’ plot, although there were no terrorist acts and there is nothing to suggest that Sentsov had any contact with Right Sector at all.   One of the other defendants, Alexander Kolchenko, is known for strong left-wing view which also makes nonsense of the suggestion that he should have taken part in a plot organized by a party with diametrically opposed views.

All four men are being held in Moscow with access extremely difficult, this heightening the doubts about the entire case.  The only ‘evidence’ thus far provided has come in the form of ‘confessions’, broadcast on Russian TV, from the other two defendants – Gennady Afanasyev and Alexei Chirny.   Confessions extracted under conditions where the men were prevented from seeing lawyers or their families, and then taken to Moscow, are highly suspect and there had already been indication from at least two of the men that any testimony had been obtained through unlawful means.

Sentsov said in court on Monday that he had been tortured and subjected to degrading treatment in the Simferopol SBU building (now under the jurisdiction of the Russian FSB].  They had tried to extract testimony claiming that the leaders of Maidan and authorities in Kyiv had ordered the alleged crimes.  When he refused to do so, they told him that he would then be made the mastermind of the ‘terrorist plot’ and would face more serious charges.  He also expressed protest at attempts to strip him of his Ukrainian citizenship and stressed that he had signed no application for Russian citizenship.   He added that he had nothing at all to do with Right Sector.  

The latter has been consistently demonized by the Kremlin and Russian media with its role wildly exaggerated.  It seems likely that Russia is seeking a show trial with Right Sector as chief villain, and people like Sentsov and Kolchenko targeted in part because of their active engagement in the EuroMaidan protests in the autumn. 

Russian film director, Nikita Mikhalkov is reported to have addressed an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Earlier in June a number of prominent European film directors, including Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, Agnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Pedro Almodovar also interceded on Sentsov’s behalf.

Amnesty International has called on Russian authorities to investigate Sentsov’s allegations of ill-treatment and to return the Ukrainian detainees to Crimea.  Russia’s Memorial Society, which recently showed Sentsov’s film Gaamer in Moscow, are also clear that Sentsov is a political prisoner. 

All men are Ukrainian nationals and the only clarity in this entire case is that all opposed Russia’s occupation of their native Crimea.  They could now face sentences of up to 20 years. 

Halya Coynash

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