74 days of hunger strike. Sentsov’s life at stake


Ołeg Sentsov, photo by aif.ua

In a letter to Oleg Sentsov, Ukrainian cultural professionals have asked him to stop hunger-striking and save his life.

The Ukrainian film director is still struggling, although the Russian authorities are unlikely to release him.

The Kremlin sustained the international pressure during the World Cup. To be more exact, it successfully diverted the world’s attention from Oleg Sentsov. During the football championship most media outlets focused on the topics that were of benefit to Moscow, which was approved by fans. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian citizen who was sentenced to 20 years in Russian prison, has been on hunger strike for 74 days since May, 14.

More than fifty Ukrainian culture and public figures (among them Sergei Zhadan, Lina Kostenko, Yanina Sokolova) urged Sentsov to suspend his hunger strike.

“There are not so many people having such will as you in the world. We know that you do not like being praised, but we need such a willed and strong-minded person us alive in order to continue further struggle for all our people, for whom you are ready to give your life,” the letter reads.

They remind of the similar situation – the fact of famous Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov’s writing to Mustafa Dzhemilev, the opposition leader and leader of the Crimean Tatar people, in 1976. The latter, who was sentenced to 15 years of prison camp, had 303-day hunger striking. Then Dzhemilev assented to Sakharov’s request.

“We want Sentsov to live – it is now the most important thing, and only then we will be able to keep fighting for him. Such a long hunger strike is Oleg’s victory, which was clear from the hysteria of the Russian authorities,” says Evgeny Zakharov, a representative of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union.

In the course of the sporting event, Moscow did much to sweep Sentsov’s protesting under the carpet. Russian media have repeatedly expressed the opinion that the Ukrainian director only pretends to be hungry, and he furtively eats. According to the Russian authorities, the protest action is nothing but propaganda, and Sentsov feels fine.

Billboards calling for the release of Oleg Sentsov are seen many theatres, cinemas and cultural venues. There are also calls to free the director in other countries.

Photo by kyivpost.com

However, Russia does not seem to be impressed. In late June, there were hopes that Sentsov would be swapped for Russian news agency RIA Novosti journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, who was arrested in Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s human rights representative Tatiana Moskalkova came to Kyiv on June, 26. In turn, Lyudmila Denisova, Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine, arrived in Moscow. But the talks were thwarted. he Russian authorities failed to give their consent to her meeting and even to a videoconference with Sentsov. In a letter to Denisova, Moskalkova wrote that Sentsov ‘looks pretty well’.

In her recent interview with RBC, Russia’s human rights representative has said again that Sentsov ‘feels better’. According to her, the Ukrainian walks, reads newspapers and looks fine. At the same time Maskalkova notes that if Sentsov’s condition significantly deteriorates, the prison authorities may start force-feeding him.

“It is clear that Moscow has got tough with Sentsov; they are no longer going to release him; unfortunately, the international pressure is very weak. The issue of Ukrainian prisoners has been forced out of the public debate due to Putin’s diplomatic offensive, due to his meeting with Trump, at which the human right issue was not even touched, ” Zakharov added.

Thus, now Russia has the opportunity to ignore the problem of Ukrainian prisoners as well as create a symmetrical situation. When talking about Sentsov, the Russian authorities and media have started to refer, for example, to the arrest of Kirill Vyshinsky. After the United States detained Maria Butina on suspicion of spying for Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry has put her photo on its profiles on social media with the words #free Maria Butina. It is nothing but a copy of the call to release Sentsov. It is the construction of such symmetry against which the Ukrainian director is striving;and people of culture from around the world support him.

Michał Kacewicz/MS, belsat.eu

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