Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who opposed Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and is now in prison in Russia, has started a hunger strike to demand the release of all Ukrainian nationals held in Russian penitentiaries.
In a handwritten letter that he gave to his lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, Sentsov said he started the hunger strike on May 14.
“The only condition for ending it is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held on Russian territory,” Sentsov wrote in the short letter. “Together to the end. Glory to Ukraine!”
Sentsov, a native of Crimea who opposed Russia’s seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014, is serving a 20-year prison term after being convicted on terrorism charges that he and human rights groups contend are politically motivated.
Sentsov was arrested in May 2014 on suspicion of planning fire-bombings of pro-Russian organizations in Crimea. A Russian court convicted him on multiple terrorism charges in August 2014.
Sentsov has denied all charges against him, saying that a “trial by occupiers cannot be fair by definition.”
The prominent Russian human rights group Memorial has recognized Sentsov as a political prisoner, and international rights organizations have called for his release.
Volodymyr Balukh, pro-Kyiv activist imprisoned by Russian authorities in Crimea in another politically charged case, has been on a hunger strike for nearly two months.