The United States has reiterated its call for Moscow to release Ukrainian prisoners held in Russia.
At a press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki welcomed the exchange of detainees that took place in December, when Ukrainian authorities and Russia-supported separatists swapped more than 360 prisoners, the largest such exchange since the beginning of hostilities last year. But Ms. Psaki noted that hundreds of prisoners remain in captivity, and mentioned two prominent Ukrainians by name.
“We reiterate our condemnation of Russia’s continued detention of Ukrainian hostages inside Russia, including a Ukrainian member of Parliament, Nadiya Savchenko, and film producer Oleg Sentsov.”
Ms. Savchenko, a pilot, was detained in June by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and was forcibly taken into Russia. Russian authorities charged her with complicity in the killing of two Russian journalists, a charge she vehemently denies. In October, she was elected in absentia to Ukraine’s parliament. For four weeks, Ms. Savchenko has been on a hunger strike in prison to protest the terms of her detention, and her health is reportedly deteriorating.
Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian film-maker who was active in the Maidan demonstrations that began in Kyiv in November 2013. He was arrested by Russian security forces in Crimea in May 2014, and has been accused of the spurious charge of plotting terrorist acts. Amnesty International reported the claim by Mr. Sentsov and his lawyer that while in detention, Mr. Sentsov was beaten and threatened with rape to force him to confess to the charge. He is currently being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.
In September 2014, Russia agreed to comply with the Minsk protocols, a key provision of which is the release of all prisoners and hostages. The United States urges the immediate release of Ms. Savchenko and Mr. Sentsov, as well as all Ukrainian hostages held inside Russia.