Sakharov Prize 2018 goes to Oleg SentsovPublished: Oct 25, 2018 Reading time: 2 minutes
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2018 presented by the European Parliament goes to unjustly imprisoned Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov.
"Oleg Sentsov, a person of obstinate courage, has become a voice of all Ukrainians currently in prison in Russia and Crimea on politically motivated charges," said Olena Ivantsiv, head of the Eastern European program in People in Need. "According to the Ukrainian human rights organizations their number has now reached 68, 31 of them sentenced on terrorist charges. Oleg put his health and life in danger demanding their release, he went on a 145-day hunger strike, the protest he scheduled a month before the 2018 FIFA World Cup in order to bring even more attention to the issue. His hard-edged approach of struggle defending human rights clearly points out that now the ball is in our court, only international community can push for the release of Ukrainian political prisoners, Oleg has done his utmost."
She added: "Awarding Oleg with the Sakharov Prize is an important recognition of Sentsov’s struggle. However, we cannot allow ourselves to reduce international pressure on the Russian Federation now. The number of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and Crimea is growing so should the international community’s pressure."
Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in jail in an unfair trial and he became a symbol for over 60 Ukrainian political prisoners held on Russian territory. He was demanding their release and holding a hunger strike from mid-May until 6 October, when he ended it because of the threat of being force-fed.
"When they put a bag on your head, beat you up a bit, half an hour later you’re ready to go back on all your beliefs, implicate yourself in whatever they ask, implicate others, just to stop them beating you. I don’t know what your beliefs can possibly be worth if you are not ready to suffer or die for them," Sentsov said at the trial on the day he was sentenced to 20 years.
"Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the film maker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world," said Antonio Tajani President of the European Parliament.
"By awarding him the Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament is expressing its solidarity with him and his cause. We ask that he be released immediately. His struggle reminds us that it is our duty to defend human rights everywhere in the world and in all circumstances."