Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian film director who was illegally sentenced by Russia under fake charges in 2015 to 20 years imprisonment for allegedly setting up a branch of a ‘terrorist group’ and organizing ‘terrorist acts’ in Crimea. His arrest in May 2014 and further trial were punishment for his activity during Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in February-April 2014, particularly for helping delivering food and supplies to the Ukrainian military servicemen trapped in their Crimean bases.
Sentsov openly said that he did not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. His conviction in a military court in Russia followed a grossly unfair trial, on politically motivated charges, and was based on “confessions” obtained through torture. During his arrest by the Russian State Security Service (FSB), Oleg was tortured by putting a plastic bag over his head until he passed out. They also threatened him with rape and murder, which forced Sentsov to “confess” to organizing explosions, acts of terrorism, and illegal possession of firearms. The conviction was described as fabricated by Amnesty International and others.
Sentsov’s rights were violated throughout his arrest, detainment, and trial. In violation of international humanitarian law, he was transferred to and faced trial in Russia, despite being arrested in Crimea and being a Ukrainian citizen. Sentsov was also denied access to his Russian lawyer for five days after being transferred to Russia. Additionally, he was not given access to the Ukrainian Consul in Russia in violation of the international law.
Sentsov served his term in the Labytnangi Penal Colony in Russia’s far North, above the Arctic circle, 5 000 km away from his home in occupied Crimea. On 14 May 2018 he declared an indefinite hunger strike until all Ukrainian political prisoners were released in Russia. Oleg Sentsov ended his hunger strike after 145 days, losing more than 30 kilos, citing the “critical state of his health” and the impending threat of hospitalization and force-feeding.
On 25 October 2018, Oleg Sentsov was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. On 16 November 2018, he was awarded the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award. On 7 September 2019, in a prisoner swap with Ukraine, Russia released Oleg Sentsov and the same day he returned to Kyiv where he reunited with his family.