Film director, scriptwriter, activist of the Crimean Automaidan and anti-occupation movement
Dmitry Dinze and Vladimir Samokhin
- Part One of Article 205.4 of the Russian Criminal Code (establishment of a terrorist community),
- Clause ‘a’ of Part Two of Article 205 of the Code (commitment of two terrorist acts),
- Part One of Article 30 and clause ‘a’ of part Two of Article 205 of the Code (preparation of two terrorist acts),
- Part Three of Article 222 of the Code (illegal trafficking of weapons and explosives)
May 10, 2014
20 years in tight security penal colony
days in custody
On May 10, 2014, Crimean film diretor, writer, and civic activist Oleg Sentsov was captured by the officers of the Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) next to the door of his own apartment in Simferopol. They threw him into the bus, handcuffed, put a bag on his head and took him to the former Crimean administration of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), which had been seized by the FSB after the Russian invasion.
On May 23, 2014, the defendants in the case, including Sentsov, were transported to the Lefortovo pretrial jail in Moscow.
The trial of Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko started in the North Caucasian District Military Court on July 21, 2015. The sentence was passed a month later, on August 25. Sentsov was condemned to 20-year imprisonment in a tight security penal colony.
Sentsov was charged with the highest corpus delicti among the defendants from of the so-called ‘Crimean Four.’ He was depicted as the organizer of a “Right Sector sabotage and terrorist group,” that allegedly committed arson attacks against the headquarters of the organization ‘Russian Community of the Crimea’ and of the ‘United Russia’ party in Simferopol. The ‘group’ was said to have been preparing the blowing up of the Lenin monument and the Eternal Flame memorial.
According to the investigators, the ‘terrorist group’ aimed to “destabilize the situation in the peninsula and influence the authorities in order to urge them to make a decision on the withdrawal of the [Crimean] Republic from the R[ussian] F[ederation].”
Sentsov was found guilty of the establishment of a ‘terrorist community,’ preparation of a ‘terrorist act’, and illegal trafficking of weapons and explosive substances organized by the ‘group.’ Now some of the alleged ‘members’ of this ‘group’ are wanted by the Russian enforcement agencies.
While Oleksandr Kolchenko and Hennadii Afanasiev ‘recognized’ their participation in the arson attacks (according to the Russian law enforcement practice, such acts are usually qualified as hooliganism), there is no evidence of Sentsov’s involvement in any illegal act he was incriminated. Sentsov has not recognized his guilt.
On November 24, 2015, the Russian Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of Sentsov and Kolchenko’s defense and upheld the previous judgment.
On December 24, 2015, the Meshchansky District Court of Moscow dismissed the suit of Sentsov’s lawyers to the FSB and the Russian media concerning the defense of his honor and dignity. The suit stated that a number of TV channels called Sentsov a ‘terrorist’ before the court judgment, based solely on an FSB press release.
The Russian human rights activists consider the attempt at the compulsory change of Sentsov and Kolchenko’s citizenship from Ukrainian to Russian an unprecedented event. The compulsion took place despite the fact that both declared themselves the nationals of Ukraine and possess only the Ukrainian passports. Under the pretext of ascribed Russian citizenship to all Crimea’s permanent residents, Ukrainian consuls were denied a visit to Sentsov and Kolchenko for a long time.
The transportation of Sentsov and other defendants in the ‘Crimean Four case’ from the occupied peninsula to the territory of the Russian Federation is also an illegal act, which violates the international humanitarian law.
Numerous international institutions and organizations (such as the European Parliament, human rights NGOs or the European Film Academy) have been continuously calling on Russia to release Sentsov. A number of world film celebrities appealed to Putin on this matter, but to no avail.
On September 24, 2015, the Ukrainian President decorated Sentsov and Kolchenko in absentia with the Orders for Courage of the First Class.
In early March 2016, Sentsov was transported to East Siberia to serve his sentence in Yakutsk penal colony #1.
At the end of the same month, Sentsov and Kolchenko’s defense announced the further appeal against the court decision in cassation proceedings.
In October 2016, the Russian Ministry of Justice turned down the official request for the return of Sentsov to Ukraine under the international Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. The Ministry asserted that he had allegedly been a Russian citizen since the annexation of Crimea, though Sentsov had never applied for the Russian citizenship and recognized himself the national of the only state: Ukraine.
The Russian Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’ recognized Sentsov, Kolchenko, and Afanasiev as political prisoners.
Sentsov has a daughter (born 2002) and a son (born 2004).
- All the witnesses for the state prosecution were biased. They were people who either had a criminal record and, therefore, were dependent on the investigation, or voluntarily decided to collaborate with the FSB, or belonged to the so-called secret witnesses, who were likely to be FSB officers.
- The ‘evidence’ of Sentsov’s ‘guilt’ consisted exclusively of the ‘testimonies’ obtained from Oleksiy Chyrniy and Hennadii Afanasiev under torture. On the Sentsov and Kolchenko trial, Afanasiev renounced his false ‘testimony.’
- The allegation concerning the very existence of the ‘Crimean terrorist group’ was fallacious. None of the defendants questioned in the case told anything about the membership of the ‘group’ or its structure. There was also no consistent evidence concerning the size of the ‘group.’ The defendants had not even been familiar with each other. Kolchenko maintained that he had not personally known Sentsov, while Sentsov said that he had not been acquainted with Kolchenko.
- It became clear during the trial that the story of the arson had been an FSB provocation. It was conceived as a pretext for the criminal prosecution of the Crimean anti-occupation resistance activists, who were depicted as ‘terrorists from the Right Sector.’ In particular, the FSB was said to have learned of Chyrniy’s intention to set fire to the offices of the ‘Russian Community of the Crimea’ and ‘United Russia’ as early as April 11 and 14, 2014, respectively. Yet, strikingly, the enforcement agencies did nothing to prevent the arson.
Sentsov’s lawyer revealed the information on the torture used against her client back in June 2014.
On August 6, 2015, in the course of the trial, Sentsov described the torture applied to him in detail:
They beat me with their hands, feet, and special means, while I was standing, lying, and sitting. It was hard to keep sitting on a chair when being beaten with a club. They choked me with a bag and threatened to raped me with a club.
Nonetheless, in October 2014, Russia’s Investigative Committee refused to bring an action in view of the fact of torture. Moreover, as far as Sentsov’s injury was documented, the resolution on the refusal stated that the prisoner had allegedly been “keen on sadomasochism, and the injuries on his back had been inflicted by some female partner shortly before the arrest.”