Putin’s Hostages, documentary about Ukrainian political prisoners of the Kremlin, available online

The documentary Putin’s Hostages: Ukrainian political prisoners of the Kremlin, is now freely available online. The documentary now includes English, Ukrainian, and German subtitles; Polish and Russian subtitles will be available soon.

Putin’s Hostages is a film about the Ukrainian political prisoners incarcerated throughout Russia and occupied Crimea. Among them are Maidan activists, Crimean Tatars, as well as ordinary and sometimes random people.

Ukrainian political prisoners are held in conditions that threaten their health, life, and human dignity. Many of them are kept in long-term isolated confinement that has devastating effects on their mental health. They have no access to health care services leading to needless suffering, disability, and even death. The prisoners’ rights to communicate with families and the outside world are extremely curtailed.

Through the stories of three prisoners: Pavlo Hryb, Yevhen Panov, and Bekir Dehermendzhy the documentary reveals the propaganda mechanism and actual goal of show trials conducted in order to justify Russian involvement in Ukraine. The stories are also told by family members and friends, to get a feeling of the prisoners’ everyday life from before the arrest. Additionally, the documentary showcases perspectives of organizations and activists both in Ukraine and Russia working to support and release the hostages, whose experience with propaganda mechanisms and institutional inequity illustrates the current situation in Russia.

At the time the documentary was shot, there were circa 70 Ukrainian political prisoners incarcerated in Russia. Since then, the three prisoners whose stories are told in the film have been released in a prisoner swap on 7 September 2019 — a happy event to which we believe this film made a small contribution. However, since then, the number of Putin’s hostages has only risen: currently, there are more than 100 Ukrainian political prisoners behind Russian bars. Russia continues taking hostages unchecked, and so far there is no systemic solution in sight.

Yet, there are things every person can take to help the political prisoner victims of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The film was premiered in PACE, shown at the British and EU parliaments, and also at movie theaters in Berlin and London. It was also shown on the Polish TVP and Ukraine’s public broadcaster Spilno, as well as the independent Belarusian channel Belsat.

Film creators: Bożydar Pająk – independent journalist and film director. He cooperates with the Polish national television (TVP). The author of many reportages broadcast on Polish national television and also of the documentary film „Annexation”, a co-production with TV Belsat.

Piotr Malinowski – independent journalist associated with Gazeta Wyborcza. He reports on the situation of asylum seekers, minorities groups, and recently on Ukrainian prisoners in Russia.

Producer: Alya Shandra, editor-in-chief of Euromaidan Press, an independent online English-language media about Ukraine.

The creation of this movie was possible thanks to the financial support of the British Embassy in Ukraine as part of the project “Creating a documentary on Ukrainian political prisoners of the Kremlin” implemented by the NGO Euromaidan Press. The ideas expressed in the movie are that of the authors and may differ from the official position of the government of the United Kingdom. See more information about the film here and on its Facebook page.