Russia: Ukrainian film director detained seven months in Moscow

9 December 2014


The Ukrainian film director and screenwriter Oleg Sentsov is accused of terrorism and liable to be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. On 11 December 2014 it is seven months since Oleg Sentsov was arrested in Crimea by the Russian secret service FSB. A trial has been set for 11 January 2015.

On 11 May 2014, Sentsov came out to protest in the streets of Simferopol in Crimea, and later that day, he was arrested by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation with a charge of terrorism. He was accused of being a member of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), a right-wing Ukrainian political group, and of plotting a terrorist attack.

Sentsov has worked as an activist of the pro-European Maidan movement in Kiev, and during the Crimean crisis Oleg Sentsov supported the movement for a united Ukraine, assisting with buying and transporting food and essentials to the Ukrainian military units in the Crimea.

But so far, no evidence has been presented that supports Oleg Sentsov should be attached to Pravy Sektor or any terrorist group. His supporters say the accusations are fabricated.

Despite protests from both European, Ukrainian and Russian filmmakers and organisations, the 38-year-old filmmaker remains detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison where his lawyer says he has been tortured.

In October 2014, Sentsov’s detention was extended to 11 January 2015.


Support events
Ukrainian filmmakers and some of their Russian colleagues have repeatedly called for Sentsov’s release.

“It is a terrible situation that must end. Oleg Sentsov must be released,” the internationally acclaimed Ukrainian film director Miroslav Slabosjpytskij from Kiev told the Swedish radio programme Kulturnytt. He said that he and other Ukrainian filmmakers are doing everything they can to constantly remind the world of Sentsov’s situation:

“People organise petitions, appeals, and screenings where the money goes to support Sentsov’s family.”

Film screenings are currently being organised in support of Oleg Sentsov in cities such as Kyiv, Ternopil, Lviv, Lutsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa. On 11 September 2014 a solidarity screening was held in Berlin, Germany.

In Russia, both the Russian-critical director Aleksander Sokurov and the pro-Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov have urged Russian authorities to release their Ukrainian colleague, and the film company Ukrkino is working on a new documentary entitled ‘Release Oleg Sentsov’.

Oleg Sentsov’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze, who earlier defended Pussy Riot, said that Sentsov was apparently beaten up and tortured after detention and was subsequently kept away from public eye to conceal the traces of the beating.

The trailer for ‘Gaamer’ was published on on 4 April 2012.

Oleg Sentsov directed the movie ‘Gaamer’, which premiered at Rotterdam in 2012 as his feature debut. Oleg Sentsov’s first two short movies were ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish’ (2008) and ‘The Horn of a Bull’ (2009). At the time we has detained, he was developing his next film project, ‘Rhino’, with financial backing from German regional funding body Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.

Film critic Andrei Plakhov, who first saw ‘Gaamer’ in Rotterdam and helped bring it to a film festival in the Russian city of Khanty-Mansiysk, described Sentsov as “intelligent” and “promising” and praised his realistic depiction of Ukraine’s bleak economic landscape under now-ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych.

According to Andrei Plakhov, Sentsov “is a man with ideas, but absolutely nothing outlandish, by no means extremist. To the contrary, his ideas are very normal and productive. This is an absolutely creative person, a person whose primary aim is to create. That’s why what’s happening is especially bitter. We understand that the film world may lose a talented person. We don’t have many of those.”


Appeals to free Oleg Sentsov
The European Film Academy joined with the French Directors’ Guild in support of Sentsov with a statement that reads:

“I belong to the international community of filmmakers, and in the light of this, I ask President Putin to free one of our own, the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. His trial is scheduled to open on 11 January 2015 in Moscow. Accused of ‘committing crimes of a terrorist nature, which he denies totally, he faces up to 20 years of prison. Together with all filmmakers who signed this text, I denounce solemnly this trial for imaginary crimes. This aggression against Oleg Sentsov is an aggression against all filmmakers, all over the world.”

The statement was signed by over 375 filmmakers.

The board of the European Film Academy also sent a letter to the Russian authorities, calling to ensure the safety of Oleg Sentsov and a thorough and impartial investigation of allegations against him:

“We, [Sentsov’s] undersigning European colleagues, are deeply worried and cannot stop wondering how he is and what his future will be,” reads the letter, addressed to top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin and signed by, among others, Pedro Almodóvar, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Andrzej Wajda, Wim Wenders and Krzysztof Zanussi.
In the light of these circumstances, we respectfully call upon you to ensure the safety of Oleg Sentsov; to make public the whereabouts of the detained; to have the detained charged with a recognizable offense or released; to instigate a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the apparently arbitrary detention by the FSB in order to bring all those responsible to justice.”

The European Union and the United States are also said to have condemned Sentsov’s detention and called for his release.

The Human Rights Film Network sent a letter to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office and Federal Security Service expressing concern that Oleg Sentsov may be detained because of his peaceful opposition to the occupation of Crimea and urge them to drop any charges that stem solely from their exercise of his rights to free expression and peaceful assembly.

A separate petition calls on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene in the case – ‘Free immediately Oleg Sentsov, Ukrainian film director and civil society activist’ – and has collected nearly 40,000 signatures.

Oleg Sentsov is one of four Ukrainian citizens – the three others are Gennady Afanasyev, Alexei Chirnigo, Alexander Kolchenko – being held by Russia’s Federal Security Service accused of seeking to carry out terrorist attacks on bridges, power lines, and public monuments in the Crimean cities Simferopol, Yalta, and Sevastopol.

» Facebook page: ‘Rescue Oleg Sentsov – Film Director from Ukraine’

» Deadline – 14 October 2014:
Int’l Film Community (Literally) Voices Opposition To Trial Of Ukraine Helmer

Londoners urge to support release of Oleg Sentsov, Nadija Savchenko and other political victims illegally detained in Russia.

» Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty – 26 June 2014:
Ukrainian Filmmaker Remains Behind Bars Despite Growing Support

» The Guardian – 10 June 2014:
Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and others call for release of Ukrainian director
European filmmakers are calling for the release of Oleg Sentsov, who is being detained following his protest against the Russian annexation of Crimea

» Moviezine:
EFA Board Expresses Concern Over Jailed Ukrainian Director Oleg Sentsov
Board members, including Pedro Almodóvar, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Andrzej Wajda, have addressed Russian authorities calling for the full and fair investigation of allegations against Sentsov.

New film “Release Oleg Sentsov”

» Wikipedia, the open encyclopedia:

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