Rus­sia court jails Ukrainian film­maker for terror charges

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY YURY MALTSEV

A Rus­sian mil­i­tary court on Tues­day sen­tenced a Ukrainian film­maker to 20 years in a stric­tregime prison colony on terror charges in a trial con­demned by Kiev, Western rights groups and top film di­rec­tors.

Oleg Sentsov, 39, was con­victed for al­legedly car­ry­ing out ar­son at­tacks on pro-Krem­lin party of­fices in Crimea af­ter it was seized by Rus­sia last March, and plot­ting fur­ther at­tacks, in­clud­ing blow­ing up a Lenin statue in the penin­sula’s main city of Sim­fer­opol.

His fel­low Ukrainian co-de­fen­dant Alexan­der Kolchenko was sen­tenced to 10 years for al­legedly tak­ing part in at­tacks.

Ac­claimed film­mak­ers from across the globe, in­clud­ing Spain’s Pe­dro Almod­ovar and the UK’s Mike Leigh, have writ­ten to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin ex­press­ing con­cern over Sentsov’s pros­e­cu­tion.

Rus­sian film di­rec­tor An­drei Zvyag­int­sev, whose latest film “Le­viathan” won a Golden Globe, wrote in a let­ter pub­lished in No­vaya Gazeta news­pa­per on Mon­day that it was “mon­strous to jail a young man, a promis­ing film­maker.”

Zvyag­int­sev called for Rus­sia to “ei­ther re­lease him or only try him for what you can prove ir­refutably.”

The up- and- com­ing di­rec­tor had his de­but fea­ture “Gamer” shown at the Ber­lin Film Fes­ti­val in 2012.

As the sen­tence was read, Sentsov de­fi­antly flicked a vic­tory sign and he and Kolchenko sang the Ukrainian na­tional an­them in­side their glass en­clo­sure.

Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, who had called for the men’s im­me­di­ate re­lease, wrote on Twit­ter in Ukrainian: “Hold on, Oleg. The time will come those who or­ga­nized the trial against you will find them­selves in the dock.”

Sentsov and Kolchenko have been held be­hind bars in Rus­sia since May last year.

The case was heard in a mil­i­tary court in the south­ern city of Ros­tov-on-Don, one of only two courts in Rus­sia au­tho­rized to hear ter­ror­ism cases.

Pros­e­cu­tors last week asked for Sentsov to be jailed for 23 years and for Kolchenko, a pro-Kiev ac­tivist who op­posed Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea, to be sen­tenced to 12 years.

The men were tried as Rus­sians, de­spite never hav­ing ap­plied for cit­i­zen­ship. Both pleaded not guilty.

In his fi­nal trial state­ment, Sentsov con­demned Moscow’s rule.

“Your pro­pa­ganda is very good, but there are also peo­ple like you who un­der­stand very well that there are no ‘fas­cists’ in Ukraine, that Crimea was taken il­le­gally and that your troops are in Don­bass,” he said of the con­flict zone in eastern Ukraine.

De­fense lawyer Dmitry Dinze told AFP when the trial started last month that he ex­pected a guilty ver­dict but hoped the men could be re­turned to Ukraine in a pris­oner ex­change.

The men are among 11 Ukraini­ans held in Rus­sian pris­ons whom Kiev con­sid­ers to be po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, ac­cord­ing to Ukrainian For­eign Min­is­ter Pavlo Klimkin.

These in­clude mil­i­tary pi­lot Nadiya Savchenko who is cur­rently on trial over the deaths of two Rus­sian jour­nal­ists.

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