Russia releases photo of hunger-striking director Sentsov

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Russia’s prison service released Saturday a rare photograph of Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov on day 139 of his hunger strike in an Arctic colony where he is serving 20 years on terror charges.

The photograph showed a medic listening to Sentsov’s chest. The 42-year-old Kremlin-opponent — who is 1.9 meters tall — looked visibly gaunt, thinner and considerably older.

On Friday, the Federal Penitentiary Service said Sentsov was taken to a state hospital in Labytnangi — a town above the Arctic Circle where he is being held — for “additional examination and consultations with medical specialists.”

Sentsov went on hunger strike in May in the run-up to the World Cup in Russia demanding the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held by Moscow. He was arrested after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea peninsula.

He was sentenced by a Russian court to 20 years behind bars for terrorism and arms trafficking following a trial denounced as “Stalinist” by Amnesty International and also criticised by Kiev, Brussels and Washington.

G7 ambassadors as well as major figures from the world of cinema, from director Jean-Luc Godard to actor Johnny Depp, have all called for Sentsov’s release. During the Venice film festival earlier this month, Hollywood stars urged Moscow not to let him die, and leading figures in the Russian film industry have also called for his release.

The Kremlin has so far remained unresponsive to such demands, saying any request for a pardon can only be filed by the prisoner himself — a step which Sentsov has refused to take. In August, Sentsov’s cousin said the director was “losing hope” and no longer believed he would be freed (AFP)

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