Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 09.08.2018
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas, many Ukrainians are being held hostage by the Putin regime. Whether they are held in jails in Crimea, in dungeons in Donbas, or in penal colonies in Russia, these Ukrainians are all prisoners of conscience. They are hostages because they act or they speak out of love for Ukraine, and they refuse to submit to the wrongful domination of Muscovy over the Ukrainian land and people.
Oleg Sentsov is a hostage because he acted in support of his country’s Revolution of Dignity to fight for a better life for Ukrainians. When Russia invaded Ukraine in Crimea he helped deliver humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian military members and their families who were besieged in bases by the special forces of the Russian army. Now, four years later, Oleg Sentsov is on hunger strike until all Ukrainian political prisoners are released by Russia.
On August 8, on the 87th day of his hunger strike, news was received that Oleg Sentsov is in very bad health. His cousin, Nataliya Kaplan, wrote about the contents of a letter from Sentsov (on photo, written in Russian) that was conveyed through his lawyer, Dmitry Dinze. Ms Kaplan wrote: “Everything is not just bad, it’s catastrophically bad. The lawyer has passed me a letter from Oleg, he almost never gets up. He wrote that the end is close and he doesn’t mean his release. He is wondering whether someone pays attention to his hunger strike as he doesn’t know because he doesn’t receive any letters at all! He says that he lives in an information vacuum and has no clue what is going on around.”
Oleg Sentsov is being tortured by Russia. He wrote to his cousin that staff at the public hospital of Labytnangi brutalize him even more than the staff of the prison hospital do.
Russia agreed to an “all-for-all” prisoner exchange in the Minsk Agreement. Putin has refused to keep his promise, as he has refused to keep every other Minsk Agreement promise. Russia does not and will not withdraw heavy weaponry, remove foreign troops, return control of the international border to Ukraine, allow OSCE monitoring, or cease fire. The guarantors of the Minsk Agreement, France and Germany, do absolutely nothing to enforce its terms on Russia.
Iryna Gerashchenko is the First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada and the Ukrainian representative to the Tripartite Contact Group humanitarian subgroup in the Minsk talks. She was pivotal in arranging the partial prisoner swap which occurred on 27 December 2017, when 233 prisoners of war held by Ukrainian authorities were exchanged for 73 Ukrainian hostages held by Putin’s terrorist groups, the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” in Donbas. Russia withheld many more hostages from what was supposed to be an “all-for-all” exchange, and refused to include Ukrainians who are being held captive in the Russian Federation or in Ukraine’s territory of Crimea which is temporarily Russian-occupied. Iryna Gerashchenko persists in making the release of Ukrainian hostages the focus of the Minsk talks, the next round of which are due to be held on August 21and 22. “The subject of hostages and political prisoners will be a key issue,” she wrote on August 8. She noted that Ukraine is ready for compromises. “We have made several proposals in recent months; unfortunately, all of them have been rejected by Russia and ORDLO [occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts], which are taking a destructive stance,” Gerashchenko wrote.
The United States and the United Kingdom are guarantors of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. They promised to uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in return for Ukraine giving up all of its nuclear weapons – which it did. The US and the UK have failed to keep their promise and failed to counter Russian aggression against Ukraine. They have failed to take action to oblige Russia to release Oleg Sentsov and the more than 70 other Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russia and in Crimea (Russian-occupied), and the approximately 150 known hostages and prisoners of war held in Donbas (Russian-occupied).
France and Germany are guarantors of the Minsk Agreement. They promise to uphold the political and military provisions of that accord. Ukraine has kept its promises unilaterally, without France and Germany taking any notice. Russia has broken all of its promises universally, without France and Germany taking any action.
Oleg Sentsov is giving his life for the release of Ukrainian political prisoners held by Russia. Russia is torturing him. The US, UK, France and Germany are doing nothing to save Oleg Sentsov, nothing to force the Russian regime of state terrorism to release its hostages, and nothing effective to stop Putin.