Wish Oleg Sentsov Freedom on his Birthday!
Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov is turning 39 on July 13 in Russian detention. There's no need to wish him strength of will and determination, since his demonstration of both during these last 14 months has only highlighted Russia’s shame in this sordid case, however letters of moral support are important (addresses below).
Sentsov and Crimean civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko are facing 20-year sentences basically for their refusal to ‘confess’ to fabricated terrorism charges. Their trial is due to begin in Rostov in one week, on July 21. The authorities are doubtless hoping that a trial so far from Moscow will receive less attention and there is certainly a lot that they have to hide.
Four opponents of Russia’s annexation of Crimea were arrested in Simferopol (Crimea) in May 2014. They were held without access to lawyers or relatives for some time before being illegally taken to Moscow. Sentsov was arrested a day before the official detention record was issued, which only serves to confirm the allegations both he and Kolchenko have consistently made that they were tortured and threatened with longer sentences if they did not ‘confess’. Sentsov’s lawyer, Dmitry Dinze is convinced that the delay in allowing him to see his client in Moscow was so that the torture marks would have faded.
The two other men – Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksy Chirniy - gave the ‘confessions’ required. These were shown on Russian pro-Kremlin channels the same day that Russia’s FSB announced that the four were facing charges over a Right Sector ‘terrorist plot’.
Afanasyev ‘cooperated’ with the investigators from the outset, Chirniy considerably later, with both receiving 7 year sentences, Afanasyev’s at a secret trial, as opposed to the 17-20 years which Sentsov and Kolchenko are facing.
Afanasyev and Chirniy are paying a high price for this deal, with both due in court to testify against the other two men.
There is no evidence against Oleg Sentsov at all, except the claims made by Afanasyev and Chirniy that Sentsov ‘masterminded’ alleged terrorist plans. There is no evidence to back the terrorism charges against Kolchenko either, however he does admit to having thrown a Molotov cocktail at night into a building housing some pro-Russian organizations heavily implicated in Russia’s invasion and annexation of the peninsula. He should at most be tried for hooliganism.
The only actual incidents in the FSB’s grandiose ‘terrorist plot’ were two such Molotov cocktail attacks on pro-Russian premises. The FSB has also been forced to readjust many of the initial claims, and presumably the ‘confessions’. The ‘ Right Sector plot’ appears to have been shelved, at least in Kolchenko’s case. The latter is a left-wing antifascist and seriously miscast for a right-wing ‘plot’. So too is Sentsov.
The hearings from next week are open, and diplomatic staff and western media much needed.
Please write to Oleg Sentsov here: 344082, г. Ростов-на-Дону, ая 2710, Сенцову Олегу Геннадьевичу;
Oleksandr Kolchenko: 344082, г. Ростов-на-Дону, ая 2710, Кольченко Александру Александровичу
Russian is best from the point of view of the prison censors, but English is fine as well. Please remember that the letters will be checked and be circumspect in what you write.
Please also send or tweet messages (hashtags #FreeSentsov, #FreeKolchenko about Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko, especially to your government and media.