Mahiliou activists set to picket in support of Sentsov during Putin’s visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to pay a visit to Mahiliou on October 11-12. The Belarusian-Russian Forum of Regions will be held in the Belarusian city.

Apparently, the local authorities are willing to make much of impression on the Russian leader: the city officials have ordered to have four clean-up days in a row in the run-up to his arrival.

In turn, Mahiliou-based human rights activists Alyaksei Kolchyn and Alyaksandr Burakou filed an application for holding a picket in support of Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov.

“I do not like the fact that Putin’s visit to Mahiliou is perceived as the appearance of some superstar. He will be welcome and shown around here; at the same time, the innocent man suffers in the Russian penal colony. He was jailed only for the reason that he wanted the territorial integrity of his country,” Burakou stressed.

It is highly unlikely that Mahiliou city executive committee will authorize the picket: the authorities will defenitely not let anyone to rain on Putin’s parade. However, not all Mahiliou residents enjoy his visit and praise Russia’s policy in the field of human rights, Kolchyn and Burakou added.

In August 2015, a Russian court sentenced Oleg Sentsov to 20 years of imprisonment. He was found guilty of an ‘attempt to organize a ‘cell of Right Sector [Ukrainian right-wing organisation] in Crimea’. The trial was held in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, The case was considered by North Caucasus District Military Court. The film director did not admit his guilt.

The charge was based on the testimony of Alexey Chyrny and Gennady Afanasiev. In court Afanasiev withdrew evidence saying that he had been tortured in jail. It is impossible to swap Sentsov for any Russian prisoner in Ukraine, because after the annexation of Crimea Russia started considering the Ukrainian director a citizen of Russia.

The Ukrainian film director, who demands that the Russian authorities release all Ukrainians jailed in Russia and Crimea, went on hunger strike on May, 14. There are 64 Ukrainian prisoners in Russia and Crimea. The 42-year-old prisoner is still not going to ask president Vladimir Putin for pardon. He has recently made his will regarding his works.

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