The Sakharov Prize 2018 has been awarded to imprisoned Ukrainian film maker Oleg Sentsov. Created in 1998 the prize is awarded by the European Parliament to people who have made “an outstanding contribution to the fight for human rights in the world.
An outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, Sentsov, 42, was sentenced in August 2015 to twenty years in prison in Russia for “terrorism” and “arms trafficking” following a trial described by Amnesty International as a “travesty of justice” evoking the “Stalinist era” .
Moscow denounced the “totally politicised” decision of the European Parliament to award the prestigious prize to the Ukrainian filmmaker . “The decision that has been taken is totally politicised,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.
Detained in a penal colony Mr. Sentsov went on a 145-day hunger strike to demand the release of seventy Ukrainians detained in Russia for political reasons.
Earlier this month he announced on that he was stopping his hunger strike, to avoid being force-fed after a fast of more than four months, which sparked an international mobilization for his release. “I am forced to end my hunger strike tomorrow, that is to say 6 October 2018” , did he know in a handwritten letter. He says: “Because of my critical health and the appearance of pathological changes in my organs, it was planned to feed me soon. My opinion is no longer taken into account. “
Despite stopping his hunger strike, Mr Sentsov’s state of health still raises serious concerns. “Abandoning a hunger strike is a rather complicated process. No one can say right now that Oleg is going to make it. The situation is very, very serious,” said Mr Sentsov’s sister Natalia Kaplan in mid-October. “His last letters were pretty pessimistic ,” she said, adding that he wrote his will.
Despite the alarming statements about the deterioration of Oleg Sentsov’s state of health, the Kremlin has repeatedly stated that a presidential pardon can only be granted at the request of the prisoner, which Sentsov refuses to do.