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Moscow Court refuses to release Oleg Sentsov


A Moscow court has rejected the last appeal lodged by prominent Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and upheld a detention order until Oct 11.  Sentsov will have been in custody for six months on ‘terrorist’ charges which are widely believed to be politically motivated. All four people accused of this alleged ‘plot’ were involved in peaceful opposition to Russia’s occupation of the Crimea.  

38-year-old Oleg Sentsov has gained a world reputation for films such as Gaamer He was also bringing up two young children by himself making the charges brought by Russia’s Security Service [FSB] that he masterminded a Right Sector terrorist plot especially absurd.

It is becoming increasingly clear that any ‘evidence’ in this case is based on ‘confessions’ almost certainly extracted through physical or psychological pressure against two people – Gennady Afanasyev and Oleskiy Cherniy.

Both Sentsov and civic activist Oleksander Kolchenko have consistently asserted their innocence.  In Kolchenko’s case the charges are absurd for another reason.  His left-wing views make the idea of his involvement in a Right Sector plot totally implausible.

Right Sector 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 - new information from Radio Svoboda citing ITAR-TASS ]

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