On 21 August 2018, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov entered his 100th day of hunger strike in the Russian prison in Labytnangi, far beyond the Arctic circle. The Crimean resident had actively opposed the occupation of his homeland by Russia 2014 and was seized there in May 2014. A Russian court sentenced him to 20 years, having found him guilty of “organizing a terrorist group” in a trial human rights defenders said was redolent of Stalin’s times. Namely, the accusation is based on testimonies extracted under torture and the story of the terrorist group is a scam. Amnesty International has called for the release of Sentsov; the major Russian human rights NGO Memorial has declared him a political prisoner.
There are at least 70 Ukrainian prisoners like Sentsov in Russia. They have become hostages of Russia’s war against Ukraine, having been jailed in fabricated trials for political reasons. Many of them have been tortured to “confess” to the necessary crimes. Volodymyr Balukh, another Crimean political prisoner who had refused to take down his Ukrainian flag after the Russian occupation, is now also on partial hunger strike, having started it on 19 May. In Putin’s Russia nowadays, the infamous Stalin-era quote “show me the man, I’ll find you the crime” is relevant again like in 1930.
Sentsov announced his hunger strike on 14 May, in the run-up to the World Cup in Russia, saying that he will stop it only when all Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russia are released. If he continues it, he is at serious risk of organ failure or death. We need to raise the alarm about what’s happening and demand that world governments demand Russia release Sentsov and others. If the world won’t pay attention to his hunger strike, maybe they’ll pay attention to ours.
We’re asking our supporters to join us in a solidarity hunger strike with Sentsov, joining the Czech filmmakers Alena Dersziová, Štěpán Hulík, David Jařab, Vít Janeček, Václav Kadrnka, Radim Špaček, and Roman Vávra. It only takes a small number of dedicated people to make enough noise and make a difference.
If we take up his cause, we can save his life. We hope that by hunger striking on his behalf, we can convince Oleg and Volodymyr to pause their own strikes while keeping their principles intact in order to save their health to continue the struggle.
If you’d like to pledge to fast for 24 hours in solidarity with the detainees, just fill in this form and choose a day that’s convenient for you. Your name will then be added to our calendar of fasters.