Hunger Strike by Ukrainian Filmmaker Renews Calls for Russia to Release Political Prisoners

Country: Russia, Ukraine
May 30, 2018

The World Movement for Democracy expresses its solidarity with Oleg Sentsov, the Ukrainian filmmaker, activist, and political prisoner who is now in his 15th day of a hunger strike. Sentsov’s goal is to bring attention to the 64 Ukrainian political prisoners imprisoned by the Russian government and to mobilize the international community to pressure Russia for their release.

Oleg was arrested in May 2014 and accused of planning to set fire to a “United Russia” political party office in Crimea. He was sentenced to twenty years in a Russian prison. Although there was little evidence against him, the prosecutors used his confession, extracted under torture and which he later retracted, to convict him. Many of the prisoners are Crimean residents and Crimean Tatars, who also “confessed” to their crimes under torture. In reality, they are guilty of little else than protesting Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Although Sentsov has accepted some “supportive therapy” from prison authorities, he will continue his hunger strike until at least June 14, the opening day of the FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia this year. Today, prominent democracy advocates issued a statement supporting Sentsov and urging the Russian government to immediately release all Ukrainian political prisoners and cease the persecution of Crimean Tatars. Read the statement below and help us to #FreeSentsov.


May 29, 2018

We write to express our support for Oleg Sentsov, the Ukrainian filmmaker who was arrested in Crimea following the Russian occupation, and who is now in the 15th day of a hunger strike that he called to demand the release of over 70 Ukrainians held as political prisoners in Russia. Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year sentence in a remote prison the Russian far north, is in a desperate situation.

We want Oleg Sentsov to know that he is not alone. His sacrifice has already called international attention not only to the plight of other Ukrainian prisoners in Russia, but also to Russia’s illegal occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. His courage is an inspiration to his friends, and his death will only benefit his enemies. We therefore appeal to Oleg Sentsov to end his hunger strike, so that he can continue his struggle to liberate Crimea and preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity.


Mustafa Dzhemilev, Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for the Affairs of Crimean Tatars

Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy

William Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

Francis Fukuyama, Director, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Stanford University

George Weigel, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Nadia Diuk, Vice President, National Endowment for Democracy

David Kramer, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, Institute for Women, Peace & Security, Georgetown University, former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues