On August 25th, a Russian military court found Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov and Ukrainian activist Oleksandr Kolchenko guilty of politically-motivated, fabricated charges, and sentenced Mr. Sentsov to 20 years and Kolchenko to 10 years in prison.
The charges against Mr. Sentsov and Mr. Kolchenko are baseless and violate their human rights. The case against them rested on testimony obtained through torture, which in at least one case was retracted because it had been coerced. Indeed, Russia singled out Sentsov and Kolchenko for exercising their freedom of speech within a sovereign Ukraine, where they expressed their vocal opposition to Russia’s purported annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
On May 11, 2014, Russia’s Federal Security Service arrested Oleg Sentsov at his home in Simferopol, Crimea, territory the international community recognizes as part of Ukraine and where Russia has no legal jurisdiction. A Ukrainian film director whose work had garnered international attention, Sentsov had just taken part in a rally to support the Euro Maidan protests in Kyiv and to oppose Russia’s occupation of Crimea.
Similarly, Russian occupational authorities arrested Oleksandr Kolchenko, a pro-Ukrainian activist, five days later. Both were illegally transported to Russia, forcibly assigned Russian citizenship to deprive them of their rights as foreign citizens, and held in detention without trial for over a year.
The United States strongly condemns the trial and sentencing of film director Oleg Sentsov and activist Oleksandr Kolchenko Oleg Sentsov and activist as groundless, a violation of human rights, and a contravention of international law.
“This is clear miscarriage of justice,” said State Department Spokesman John Kirby.“Both Ukrainians were taken hostage on Ukrainian territory, transported to and imprisoned in Russia, and had Russian citizenship imposed on them against their wills. They have reported abuses by Russian authorities who also restricted their access to lawyers, family, and others while in jail for more than a year.
“Mr. Sentsov and Mr. Kolchenko were targeted by authorities because of their opposition to Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea,” said Spokesperson Kirby.
“The United States stands by those who are persecuted for exercising their rights to speak freely and engage in peaceful protest. We again call upon the Russian Federation to implement the commitments it made in signing the Minsk agreements by immediately releasing Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Nadiya Savchenko, and all other remaining hostages.”