Oleg Gennadyevich Sentsov
Oleg Sentsov in 2019
|Alma mater||Kyiv National Economic University|
Oleg Gennadyevich Sentsov (Ukrainian: Олег Геннадійович Сенцов, Oleh Hennadiiovych Sentsov) is a Ukrainian filmmaker, writer and activist from Crimea. As a filmmaker he shot his film in 2011 Gamer. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea he was arrested in Crimea in May 2014 and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment by a Russian court in August 2015 on charges of plotting terrorism acts. The conviction was described as fabricated by Amnesty International and others. He was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2018. On 7 September 2019 he was released in a prisoner swap.
Sentsov was born on 13 July 1976 in Simferopol, Crimean Oblast, Ukrainian SSR. He is an ethnic Russian. From 1993 to 1998 he was an economics student in Kiev and later took courses in film directing and screenwriting in Moscow. His first two short movies were A Perfect Day for Bananafish (2008) and The Horn of a Bull (2009). Gamer, his first feature, debuted at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2012. Its success in this and other festivals helped him secure funding for the forthcoming feature Rhino, production on which was postponed due to his work with the Euromaidan protest movement. It was scheduled to begin shooting in the summer of 2014.
After the November 2013 breakout of the Euromaidan protests Sentsov became an activist of "AutoMaidan" and during the 2014 Crimean crisis he helped deliver food and supplies to Ukrainian military servicemen trapped in their Crimean bases. Sentsov stated that he did not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea.[nb 1]
Arrest and detention
Sentsov was arrested on 11 May 2014 in Crimea on suspicion of "plotting terrorist acts". With Gennady Afanasyev, Alexei Chirniy, and Alexander Kolchenko, he became one of four Ukrainian citizens held by Russia's Federal Security Service, who accused them of seeking to carry out terrorist attacks on bridges, power lines, and public monuments in the Crimean cities Simferopol, Yalta, and Sevastopol. These charges are punishable with up to 20 years in prison.
After holding Sentsov without charges for three weeks, the Federal Security Service accused the four Ukrainians of being "part of a terrorist community, to carry out explosions with home-made devices on May 9, 2014 near the Eternal Flame memorial and Lenin monument in Simferopol and to set fire to the offices of the Russian Community of Crimea public organization and the United Russia party branch in Simferopol on April 14 and April 18, 2014". Sentsov, Afanasyev, Chirniy and Kolchenko were also accused of membership in Ukraine's nationalist paramilitary group, Right Sector, a claim that both Sentsov and Right Sector denied. Russian prosecutors stated that Sentsov confessed to the terrorist plots. But the filmmaker and his lawyer Dmitry Dinze denied this and he and Sentsov himself have stated that Sentsov was beaten and threatened with rape to force his confession. According to Sentsov's lawyers, investigators refused to open a case on his allegations of torture, suggesting that his bruises were self-inflicted and that he was keen on sado-masochism.
Starting on 19 May 2014, Sentsov was detained in Moscow's Lefortovo prison. On 26 June 2014 Russia's Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights appealed to Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin to review the circumstances surrounding the arrests of Sentsov and Kolchenko. A reply, posted on the council's website, stated prosecutors found "no grounds" for altering the detention of either suspect. On 7 July 2014 Sentsov's arrest was extended to 11 October. In October 2014 his arrest was again extended to 11 January 2015.
Ukrainian authorities were banned by their Russian counterparts to contact or help Sentsov. According to Sentsov he has been deprived of his citizenship of Ukraine. In August 2019, Sentsov was moved from an Arctic prison to a jail in Moscow amid possible talks of prisoners swaps.
Sentsov went on trial for terrorism in Russia on 21 July 2015 among international outcry and an open letter by prominent European film directors Pedro Almodóvar, Ken Loach, Béla Tarr, and Wim Wenders.
The main witness for the prosecution, Gennady Afanasyev, retracted his testimony in court on 31 July, saying it was given under duress. According to the Afanasyev's lawyer, his defendant was actually tortured, including with electric current. The other main witness Oleksiy Chirnyi refused to testify in court.
A Russian court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced Sentsov to 20 years in prison on 25 August. He was then imprisoned in Yakutsk. Sentsov initially served his sentence in the Russian federal subject Sakha Republic. In September 2017 he was reportedly transferred to Russia's northernmost prison in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. He declines visits by his family after observing that once the visitors leave other prisoners "fall into terrible deep depression". In October 2016 Russia refused to extradite Sentsov to Ukraine, claiming that he is a Russian citizen.
Sentsov was serving his term in the Labytnangi Penal Colony in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in the North of Russia. On 14 May 2018, he went on an open-ended hunger strike protesting the incarceration of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and demanding their release. After 145 days of the hunger strike, he ended it due to health concerns and the threat of force-feeding.
According to the Ombudsperson of Ukraine Valeriya Lutkovska, the decision of the Rostov court towards Ukrainians Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko constitutes discrimination on national origin.
On 26 June 2014, Russia's Presidential Council for Human Rights appealed to Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin to review the circumstances surrounding the arrests of Sentsov and fellow activist Oleksandr Kolchenko. A reply, posted on the council's website, stated prosecutors found "no grounds" for altering the detention of either suspect.
The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini stated that "the EU considers the case to be in breach of international law and elementary standards of justice."
The United States called the sentencing a "miscarriage of justice", stating that "Mr. Sentsov and Mr. Kolchenko were targeted by authorities because of their opposition to Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea." Saying that Sentsov and Kolchenko were "taken hostage on Ukrainian territory", it called upon the Russian Federation to "implement the commitments it made in signing the Minsk agreements by immediately releasing Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Nadia Savchenko, and all other remaining hostages".
The German government's special envoy for human rights and humanitarian affairs said in a statement that he was "shaken" by the severity of the sentences and urged Russia to comply with Council of Europe norms for the humane treatment of prisoners.
European directors Agnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Pedro Almodóvar co-signed a 10 June 2014 letter by the European Film Academy to Russian authorities, demanding that the charges against Sentsov be dropped and the allegations of torture investigated. Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf dedicated his acceptance of the 2015 Robert Bresson Prize of the Venice Film Festival to Sentsov, calling the conviction a "major injustice" and the sentence "a move to intimidate all Russian society, especially the intellectuals and artists".
The European Parliament supported a resolution on the immediate release of Oleg Sentsov and other Ukrainian political prisoners. Before the vote, all major political groups in the European Parliament, when discussing the human rights situation in Russia, called for the release of Oleg Sentsov and 158 other political prisoners held in the country. The participants of the debate stressed the need to continue the sanctions pressure on the Kremlin, and European leaders and diplomats urged not to attend the World Cup, which opens June 14 in Russia.
The Sejm of Poland adopted a resolution on 15 June 2018 demanding the release of Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia for political reasons. In the resolution deputies demand, in particular, to release Oleg Sentsov, Olexandr Kolchenko, and Roman Sushchenko.
Sentsov was granted the title of honorary citizen of Paris on 24 September 2018. Sentsov was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize on 25 October 2018, in a move described by The Guardian as an EU rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On 7 September 2019, in a prisoner swap with Ukraine, Russia released Oleg Sentsov and same day he returned to Kyiv where he – and other returning prisoners – was welcomed by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and where Sentsov reunited with his family.
The swap and release of prisoners was welcomed by American, French and German leaders and leaders of international organizations such as NATO, OSCE and regional (European Parliament).
|2017||The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov||cameo||documentary|
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