Russia's refusal to allow Amnesty access to jailed Ukrainian film-maker 'indefensible'

Oleg Sentsov (l) was jailed alongside the ecologist Aleksandr Kolchenko (r) in a 'show trial' in 2015 © Anton Naumlyuk

Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike in a penal colony in Russian Arctic for more than 80 days in protest at jailing of Ukrainians in Russia

Following the Russian authorities’ refusal to allow Amnesty International access to unfairly-jailed Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov, currently 82 days into a hunger strike in a penal colony in the Russian Arctic, Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty’s Ukraine Director, said:

“Denying us the right to visit Oleg Sentsov is indefensible. 

“After almost three months on hunger strike, there are grave concerns for his health. 

“We were planning to visit Oleg accompanied by an independent medical expert who would be able to evaluate his health. In order to dispel all doubts about Oleg’s health condition and the adequacy of medical assistance provided to him, such a visit is imperative. 

“Amnesty International calls for Oleg’s immediate release and demands that, while detained, he has access to qualified health professionals, providing healthcare in line with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy, and informed consent.

“In addition, the Russian authorities must grant access to Oleg for Ukrainian consular staff.”

On Monday, Amnesty’s office in Moscow received a letter from Valery Balan, Deputy Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service, denying Amnesty’s request to visit Mr Sentsov in Labytnangi penal colony but providing no explanation. The letter said that Sentsov’s health had been assessed as stable with no “negative dynamic”.

The film-maker began a hunger strike on 14 May in protest at the politically-motivated jailing of dozens of Ukrainians in Russian. 

‘Stalinist-era show trials’

In 2015, Oleg Sentsov was himself sentenced to 20 years in prison following a trial - attended by Amnesty - in a military court in Rostov-on-Don where he faced “terrorism” charges stemming from his opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Jailed alongside the ecologist and anti-fascist activist Aleksandr Kolchenko, Amnesty described the trial as comparable to the “Stalinist-era show trials” of Soviet dissidents. The sentences came after a patently unfair trial marred by credible allegations of torture. International humanitarian law requires that Russia, as the occupying power in Crimea, prosecute any defendants in civilian courts under Ukrainian law. 

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