Mother on hunger strike calls on Putin to free son

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

MOSCOW: The mother of Ukrainian di­rec­tor Oleg Sentsov, who has re­fused food for 60 days, has ap­pealed to Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin to free her son as hopes faded that the Krem­lin critic would get out of a Rus­sian prison alive.

Lyud­mila Sentsova’s let­ter to Mr Putin was re­leased yes­ter­day, the day the hunger­strik­ing Ukrainian ac­tivist and film­maker turned 42 in a jail in the far north of Rus­sia.

“I ask you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, to show mercy and grant par­don to Oleg Sentsov, do not de­stroy his life and that of his loved ones. We are wait­ing for him at home,” she said in the let­ter dated June 22.

“He has al­ready served four years. His chil­dren are wait­ing for him. His younger son suf­fers from autism. They are feel­ing bad with­out him. They will never be happy with­out their fa­ther.”

Sentsov is serv­ing a 20-year sen­tence af­ter be­ing con­victed on ter­ror­ism charges over an al­leged ar­son plot in Crimea. His sup­port­ers say the case was trumped up.

Ms Sentsova said her son had not killed any­one, de­scrib­ing him as a man in­ter­ested in film-mak­ing.

The vo­cal Krem­lin critic was de­tained in Crimea in 2014 af­ter Rus­sia an­nexed the penin­sula from Ukraine.

Western gov­ern­ments and celebri­ties have re­peat­edly urged the Krem­lin to re­lease Sentsov. Prom­i­nent Rus­sian film­maker Alexan­der Sokurov has even asked the Pope to in­ter­vene.

But Moscow has shown lit­tle en­thu­si­asm for let­ting the anti-Krem­lin film­maker go and hopes are quickly fad­ing that he will be re­leased by the time the World Cup Rus­sia is host­ing ends to­mor­row.

The Krem­lin has said Sentsov should him­self ask Mr Putin for a par­don which he has re­fused to do.

Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko said on Face­book his gov­ern­ment would keep up pres­sure on the Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties in a bid to free Sentsov and dozens of other Ukraini­ans it con­sid­ers po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

The di­rec­tor and au­thor launched his hunger strike on May 14 to de­mand Rus­sia re­lease Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

He has timed his protest to co­in­cide with the World Cup to at­tract max­i­mum at­ten­tion to the plight of Ukraini­ans im­pris­oned in Rus­sia.

Sentsov has lost around 15 kilo­grammes, be­ing sus­tained by water and a glu­cose drip, his rel­a­tives say.

On av­er­age, hu­mans can sur­vive with­out food for about eight weeks.

Rus­sian ac­tivists who staged pick­ets in Sentsov’s sup­port have been ha­rassed by the au­thor­i­ties.

Yes­ter­day, an ac­tivist was sen­tenced to five days in jail for demon­strat­ing in his sup­port in the se­cond city of Saint Peters­burg, of­fi­cials said.

Sentsov is best known for his film Gamer, which screened to crit­i­cal ac­claim at the Rot­ter­dam Film Fes­ti­val in 2012.

Sup­port­ers say Rus­sia wanted to make an ex­am­ple of him with the stiff sen­tence on charges of mas­ter­mind­ing ar­son at­tacks, which he de­nies.

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