Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 16.10.2017
Russia is invading Europe in Ukraine. The Russians have abducted and are holding hostage political prisoners as part of Putin’s War against the West. A group of former EuroMaidan activists called “Let My People Go!” currently is tracking 49 prisoners of conscience who are in the clutches of the Putin regime. One of the most prominent is Oleg Sentsov, a native of Simferopol, Ukraine, who is a filmmaker and writer best known for his 2011 movie “Gamer.”
Oleg Sentsov is very likely imprisoned north of the Arctic Circle. He’s in a penal colony in Labytnangi, Russia, according to an October 16 report by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. Labytnangi is 3,000 kilometres from Oleg Sentsov’s home in Crimea, Ukraine, from which he was abducted and transported by the Russians. The European Court of Human Rights has found that it is a breach of international human rights to keep a prisoner so far from home. Therefore, Russia is going against the Council of Europe (of which it is a member) by sending Oleg Sentsov to Labytnangi. Why the Russians have moved him to this notorious prison is indicated by civic activist Yana Goncharova. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group quotes her as saying she believes the reason the Russians have moved Oleg Sentsov to Labytnangi is because it is a so-called ‘red’ prison where the guards brutally beat the inmates in their custody.
During the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, in 2013-14, Oleg Sentsov joined the AutoMaidan movement. AutoMaidan members were “Ukrainian patriots on wheels” and very effective at exposing the violence and corruption of the Yanukovych regime. When Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014, one of the tactics the Russians used was to besiege Ukrainian military facilities with special operations forces. Oleg Sentsov and the AutoMaidan activists brought food and supplies to Ukrainian servicemen. On 11 May 2014 Oleg Sentsov was abducted by the Russians, held incommunicado for several weeks, then emerged to be charged with terrorism offences. Convicted on these bogus charges, Oleg Sentsov was transported out of his home in Crimea, Ukraine to captivity in Russia.
Ukraine and the rest of the civilized world cried out at the public display of barbarity by the Russians. The actions of Oleg Sentsov were completely non-violent; the Russians have no jurisdiction within Ukraine – meaning Crimea; the trial was a mockery of justice – no evidence was presented and no witness who had not been tortured was called. His treatment has been an outrage to international human rights. Oleg Sentsov is a prisoner of conscience. Tortured from the moment he was abducted by the Russians, Oleg Sentsov’s torments have been multiplied by being forced on repeated long-distance moves from prison to prison within Russia. His family and lawyer are never notified of these sudden moves, and Oleg Sentsov’s treatment remains unmonitored until his new place of captivity becomes known. Every time a new place of captivity does become known, Ukrainians and supporters of human rights around the world write letters of comfort to Oleg Sentsov, and write letters urging his immediate release to his Russian captors.
The Russians who are invading Europe in Ukraine make a point by prominently torturing Oleg Sentsov in front of the world community. International organizations, Western governments, and human rights groups all roundly condemn Russia for what they are doing to prisoner of conscience Oleg Sentsov, but their words do not free him. Eager to demonstrate that impotent condemnation has no effect, the Putin regime aggressively executes a campaign of violence and fear so that it can claim Russia has “regained respect” in the world.
Ukrainians know Oleg Sentsov as a patriot. The international community knows him to be an innocent victim. The Russian invaders of Europe falsely project him to be a terrorist and they cannot get away with that. The Putin regime is engaging in state terrorism every bit as horrific as the Stalin regime. If any case calls out for “Magnitsky” type sanctions against Russian officials who abuse international human rights, the case of Oleg Sentsov is it. The United States, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Canada – each of these countries has a “Magnitsky” laws – should apply sanctions against all Russian officials involved: from Vladimir Putin to the Labytnangi prison guards. For Oleg Sentsov and all political prisoners of Russia, civilized humanity must speak and act to “Let My People Go!”