“To correct profound injustice”: members of Russian PEN Center call on Putin to free Sentsov

More than eighty Russian writers, journalists, and scholars, mostly the members of the Russian PEN Center and the Free Historical Society, have signed the petition calling on President Putin to pardon the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is serving his 20-year sentence in a Russian prison. The petition was published in Russian by Colta.ru on Dec. 24, 2016, and below we provide the translation.


Oleg Sentsov. Snapshot from the video by Grani.Ru

To Russian President Vladimir Putin:

In these days of Christmas eve, when many people, regardless of their personal views and religious affiliations, follow the ancient tradition and tend to show humanity and compassion, we, members of the Russian PEN Center, want to say about the need to correct the profound injustice — 20-year-old sentence on our colleague, writer and director Oleg Sentsov — as soon as possible.

On December 2, 2016, at the joint meeting of the two Councils: for Culture and for the Russian Language, the film director Alexander Sokurov asked and even begged you to pardon Oleg Sentsov, who had been arrested by the FSB on May 10, 2014. We, members of the Russian PEN Center, support Alexander Sokurov in that and ask you to extend procedure of pardon to Oleg Sentsov.

Oleg Sentsov has already spent two and a half years in custody. Meanwhile, the charge of a criminal intent (according to the investigation, in the spring of 2014, he instructed his associates to blow up the Lenin monument in Simferopol, and also was planning a terrorist attack at the ‘Eternal Flame’ memorial in the city for May 9) was based on the testimony of one of the defendants who disproved it completely during the trial as given under torture. Torture was applied to Oleg as well, which was confirmed by his lawyers, but he has never acknowledged his guilt. In court, he rejected all the charges with tranquility and dignity, which only a man confident in his righteousness and innocence could display.

Today Sentsov is in a Yakut colony, and his friends and colleagues say they lost communication with him; he refuses to see visitors and does not respond to the letters. This points to an extremely dangerous psychological condition and is an indication of his excruciating moral (and perhaps physical) suffering. Until recently, the hope was alive that Oleg Sentsov would be included in a program of prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine. But in October 2016, the Russian Ministry of Justice refused to transfer Oleg Sentsov to Ukraine, of which he considers himself a national. The reference to the fact that the law on the annexation of Crimea implies an automatic switch to Russian citizenship sounds like an echo of serfdom. Sentsov has not applied for withdrawal of the Ukrainian citizenship; he has not broken with the country that he considers his homeland.

The tragedy that occurred with a young director at the beginning of his career (Oleg’s first movie Gamer won the awards at several film festivals) caused a wave of statements in his defense. World-famous directors asked to release Oleg Sentsov, among them Pedro Almodóvar, Aki Kaurismäki, Ken Loach, Mike Lee, Wim Wenders, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi, and also such prominent national filmmakers as Andrei Zvyagintsev, Alexei German Jr., Vladimir Mirzoev, Pavel Bardin, Alexander Kott et al.

While joining Alexander Sokurov and all those who requested a fair grace for Oleg Sentsov, we ask you, Mr. President, to apply to Oleg Sentsov the norm of the law that allows the head of state to make a decision on the pardon of convicts without the admission of guilt on their part; we ask you to use all the available resources and mechanisms for the speedy release of our colleague Oleg Sentsov.

Members of the Russian PEN Center:
1. Mikhail Aizenberg
2. Konstantin Azadovsky
3. Alexander Archangelsky
4. Irina Balakhonova
5. Leonid Bakhnov
6. Irina Bogatyreva
7. Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya
8. Marina Boroditskaya
9. Olga Varshaver
10. Alina Vitukhnovskaya
11. Marina Vishnevetskaya
12. Tatiana Voltskaya
13. Alisa Ganieva
14. Alexander Gelman
15. Katerina Gordeeva
16. Kristina Gorelik
17. Barbara Gornostaeva
18. Yuly Gugolev
19. Vitaliy Dikson
20. Veronika Dolina
21. Denis Dragunsky
22. Olga Drobot
23. Evgeny Ermolin
24. Viktor Esipov
25. Georgy Efremov
26. Alexei Zakharenkov
27. Natalia Ivanova
28. Gennady Kalashnikov
29. Sergey Kaledin
30. Timur Kibirov
31. Nikolai Kononov
32. Grigory Kruzhkov
33. Sergey Kuznetsov
34. Maya Kucherskaya
35. Alexander Kushner
36. Irina Levinskaya
37. Andrey Makarevich
38. Alexei Motorov
39. Naum Nim
40. Vera Pavlova
41. Sergei Parkhomenko
42. Grigory Pasko
43. Grigory Petukhov
44. Olga Romanova
45. Lev Rubinstein
46. Olga Sedakova
47. Evgeny Sidorov
48. Boris Sokolov
49. Natalia Sokolovskaya
50. Vladimir Sotnikov
51. Tatiana Sotnikova (Anna Berseneva)
52. Sergey Stratanovskii
53. Boris Frezinsky
54. Igor Kharichev
55. Mikhail Kholmogorov
56. Elena Chizhova
57. Alla Shevelkina
58. Tatiana Shcherbina
59. Sergey Yakovlev
60. Viktor Yaroshenko

Joined the letter
Nune Barseghyan
Vladimir Voinovich
Sergei Gandlevsky
Boris Katz
Gennady Krasuhin
Natalia Mavlevich
Vera Milchina
Lyubov Summ
Irina Surat
Lev Timofeev
Lyudmila Ulitskaya

Members of the Free Historical Society:
Irina Arzhantseva
Vladimir Vedernikov
Alexei Gippius
Anatoly Golubovskii
Boris Dolgin
Ilya Kukulin
Mikhail Lipkin
Alexander Moldovan
Alexei Mosin
Svetlana Neretina
Nikita Sokolov
Anatoly Turilov
Fedor Uspensky

and also
Sergei Lukashevsky
Katerina Khmelnitskaya
Irina Shcherbakova


Read also:
French artists call to free Oleg Sentsov and imprisoned Russian artists