Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 29.05.2018
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov is a hostage of Russia. Putin’s goons abducted him on 11 May 2014 after Russia invaded and occupied his homeland, which is Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea. His current status, four years later, is that he is being held as a prisoner somewhere north of the Arctic Circle in the Russian Federation. He has committed no crime. Oleg Sentsov is loyal to Ukraine, and he will not submit to the Russian regime of state terror.
On May 14, Oleg Sentsov announced through a note passed to his lawyer that he is on a hunger strike. He has only one demand: “The only condition for ending it is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held by Russia.” The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group is tracking over 70 Ukrainian political prisoners of war who are being held by Russia. Putin hates and fears these men because of what they believe – they are patriots of Ukraine – and of who they are – they are ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. Putin took them hostage because they stand for a peaceful, democratic, tolerant, European, and thoroughly Western Ukraine. Putin took them hostage because they stand against the great evil of ‘Russian World’ imperialist aggression.
People of good conscience are being mobilized all around the world to stand behind Oleg Sentsov’s demand that Russia release all Ukrainian political prisoners. On Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 there will be Free Sentsov Worldwide Action Days. Rallies, demonstrations, vigils and other events are planned. Some 50 cities have already signed up. Under the umbrella of the Ukrainian World Congress, a “Save Oleg Sentsov” Global Action group is raising awareness of the Free Sentsov World Wide Action Days.
One of the cities where an “action” will take place is Ottawa, Canada. Ottawa was quite active in the pro-Ukrainian cause during EuroMaidan of late 2013-early 2014 and the invasion/occupation of Crimea in February-March 2014. Protests were held to support the demands of what became the Revolution of Dignity. Vigils were held to mourn the Heaven’s Hundred who were slaughtered by the Yanukovych Clan with its Russian backers. Demonstrations were held against the fake so-called ‘referendum’ and illegal ‘annexation’ of Crimea. But for four years Ottawa has been relatively quiet with respect to public demonstrations of support for Ukraine and opposition to Russian aggression.
Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike has energized Ottawa to 2014 levels of action, as it has so many cities around the world. On June 1, a silent vigil will be held at the Russian embassy. If the crowd gets big, the organizers may decide to make it “unsilent.”
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) is calling for its member organizations to hold rallies and demonstrations on June 1 and 2 in as many Canadian cities as possible. The UCC is calling on the Government of Canada to impose sanctions against Russian officials responsible for the imprisonment of Oleg Sentsov and the more than 70 other political prisoners of war. The UCC specifically calls on Canada to use the leverage of the Presidency of the Group of Seven industrialized nations which it holds this year.
Oleg Sentsov is not the only hostage of the Russian regime of state terror who is on hunger strike. Volodymyr Balukh, a farmer who lives in Crimea, is being held captive because he flew a Ukrainian flag over his house. He has been on hunger strike since March 19 in protest at his prison sentence on grossly fabricated charges after he refused to betray his home and native land, Ukraine.
It is urgent to act to free the Ukrainian hostages now. Russia is torturing its Ukrainian prisoners, including by deliberately withholding medical treatment. Every new day of captivity means more suffering for Oleg Sentsov and Volodymyr Balukh and the other loyal Ukrainians.
Go to a day of action event in your city. Say “Free Sentsov” and “Free Balukh” and hold up a hashtag or a picture of any of the more than 70 political prisoners of war of Russia. Western civilization must withstand the onslaught by aggressor Russia. Western values stand for the dignity and worth of all people. The West must stand against the grave abuse of human rights by the Putin regime of state terror against Oleg Sentsov and the other Ukrainian political prisoners of war.