Oleg Sentsov on hunger strike in Yamal prison
Text by Daniil Kuznetsov, «7x7»
Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after setting fire to the office of political party “United Russia” in the Crimea, went on a hunger strike in the colony in Labytnangi. According to Sentsov’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze, he demands the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia.
Sentsov’s claim concerns 64 Ukrainian political prisoners, not himself. He went on hunger strike on May 14 and prepared for it in advance.
“He refused food parcels from the colony store, sticked to porridge and ate a minimal amount of food, preparing the body for a hunger strike, which he subsequently announced. In the colony he was persuaded to stop the hunger strike. Human rights activists came to visit. He said that the hunger strike will continue till the bitter end: either he will die, or his demands will be fulfilled. He did not demand of his own release. It’s only about releasing political prisoners,” said Dmitry Dinze.
In Sentsov’s note to his lawyer, there is a phrase in Ukrainian: “Разом та до кiнця” (“Together till the end”).
After the start of the hunger strike, Sentsov was transferred to a separate cell. A doctor monitors his state of health. The prisoner has no complaints to the conditions of the colony, which has the name “Polar Bear”.
Sentsov’s lawyer reminds that officials of the Federal Penitentiary Service often send prisoners who have gone on hunger strike to a psychiatric examination to declare them insane and subsequently forcibly feed them. However, according to the lawyer, Oleg Sentsov had already passed this examination and was recognized mentally healthy.
Sister of Sentsov Nadezhda Kaplan briefly commented on the news of her brother’s hunger strike on Facebook: “On May 14, Oleg Sentsov announced an unlimited hunger strike. He demands to release of all Ukrainian political prisoners. Everything bad, really bad.”
In 2015, the North Caucasian District Military Court found Sentsov guilty of preparing terrorist acts in the Crimea. He was given 20 years of colony, and his colleague Alexander Kolchenko — 10 years. They were accused of setting fire to the doors of the Russian community of Crimea and the window of “United Russia”. According to the investigation, Sentsov and Kolchenko wanted to blow up a monument to Lenin. Both did not take a plea. In 2017 Sentsov was transferred to the Yamal colony in Labytnangi.
Many well-known figures of cinema, such as the director Andrey Zvyagintsev and the American actor Johnny Depp, have expressed support for Sentsov.
The Ukrainian authorities are ready to exchange Sentsov and Kolchenko for Russian prisoners.
This story is originally posted on 7x7-journal.ru and re-published as part of Eyes on Barents, a collaborative partnership between news organizations and bloggers in the Barents region