1. IntroductionRussian special services continue with the fabricated criminal case against the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. The investigators declare that the investigation will be completed soon, and in early 2015, the trial may begin. Let us remind ourselves that Oleg Sentsov and other persons, accused in the case of the ‘Crimean terrorists’, are facing serious charges of terrorism in the form of the arson attack on the ‘Russian Community of Crimea’ building on 14 April, 2014 (the entrance to the building was burned) and the building of the Simferopol branch of the party ‘United Russia’ on 18 April, 2014 (a window was damaged by fire), as well as charges of ‘plotting to carry out explosions’ on the Crimean Peninsula. There is no compelling evidence of the crimes, incriminated to Oleg Sentsov. All charges against him are based solely on the testimony of other defendants in the criminal case, which are believed to have been obtained under torture. Torture was also exerted upon Oleg Sentsov himself, in order to force him to confess to the crimes. The investigating authorities of the Russian Federation refused to investigate into the allegations of physical violence suffered by the Ukrainian, justifying the refusal with openly cynical allegations about Sentsov’s sadomasochistic tendencies. Oleg Sentsov faces up to 20 years in prison.
2. Oleg Sentsov’s arrest has been extended until 11 April, 2015On 29 September, 2014, the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow extended the arrest of Oleg Sentsov by 3 months, i.e. until 11 January, 2015. The hearing was presided over by Judge Margarita Kotova. Oleg Sentsov was present at the hearing and had the opportunity to deliver a speech.
Sentsov and other persons, accused in the case of the ‘Crimean terrorists’, are facing serious charges of terrorism in the form of the arson attack on the ‘Russian Community of Crimea’ building and the building of the Simferopol branch of the party ‘United Russia’.
3. Other defendants in the case of the ‘Crimean terrorists’Initially, one criminal case was opened jointly against Oleg Sentsov and three other Crimeans – Alexander Kolchenko, Gennadiy Afanasyev and Alexey Chirnyi. As in the case of Oleg Sentsov, they were arrested in May 2014 by Russia’s FSB workers and, following a short period of incarceration in a Simferopol detention facility, they were transferred to the ‘Lefortovo’ detention centre in Moscow. On 25 December, 2014, it was announced that the trial of Gennadiy Afanasyev had already been carried out and he was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, having been convicted of committing a terrorist act (Article 205, section 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). His case on charges of terrorism has been split into separate proceedings. The trial was held in secret and the public was merely informed about the results. Let us remind ourselves that Gennadiy Afanasyev and Alexey Chirnyi pleaded guilty and they agreed to cooperate with the investigation team. Moreover, their confessions serve as a basis for charges levied against Oleg Sentsov. Their testimonies may have been given under torture, as torture was also used against Oleg Sentsov. It is worth noting that, during the arrest, Alexey Chirnyi was subjected to forcible treatment in a mental hospital, during which methods of punitive psychiatry may have been applied. Alexander Kolchenko, according to his counsel, Svetlana Sidorkina, is not cooperating with the investigators and has not given any testimony. However, he does not deny the fact that he was near the office of the ‘United Russia’ party on the night of the arson attack (18 April, 2014) and at the very time the fire broke out. On 29 September, 2014, during the hearing regarding the extension of the term of arrest with regard to Oleg Sentsov, it became known that the number of those accused in the criminal case has risen to 8. This fact was mentioned in the motion for the extension of his arrest. In addition to the well-known Afanasyev, Kolchenko, Sentsov and Chirnyi, the request also cited other alleged participants of the terrorist group: E. Asanov, N. Borkin, I. Zuykov and S. Tsyril. These names hadn’t been mentioned in the case previously. The motion was signed by the investigator Artem Burdin on 22 September, 2014. Unfortunately, no information about the new suspects, apart from their names, has been made public thus far. It is even unclear whether they are still wanted, or if they have been detained, or if they have given any testimonies.
4. Russian investigators are striving to pass off Oleg Sentsov’s traces of torture as a result of his sadomasochistic behaviourAttempts to prosecute the FSB employees who committed acts of torture against Oleg Sentsova, have failed.
According to the Ukrainian filmmaker, Russia’s FSB workers exerted physical violence on him – they put a plastic bag over his head and strangled him into unconsciousness; they applied multiple blows to his back and head with their legs, hands and batons, they removed his pants with shorts, beat him on the buttocks and threatened to rape him with a baton; they also threatened him to take him out to the forest and kill him and to put him in a ‘sweatbox’, or feed him to dogs.
5. The issue of Oleg Sentsov’s citizenshipThe investigating authorities of the Russian Federation do not recognise the Ukrainian citizenships of Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko, Alexey Chirnyi and Gennadiy Afanasyev, continuing to insist on the fact that the accused have automatically been allocated Russian citizenship due to the annexation of the Crimea. Under this pretext, the investigators haven’t granted Sentsov permission to meet with Ukrainian diplomats. The defendants themselves regard themselves as citizens of Ukraine and have not opted to assume Russian citizenship. On 13 October, 2014, Alexander Kolchenko’s counsel, Svetlana Sidorkina filed a claim with the Kiev District Court of Simferopol, requesting the recognition of Alexander’s right to maintain Ukrainian citizenship. In the lawsuit, the lawyer refers to the law ‘On Citizenship of the Russian Federation’. The law states that “when the state border of the Russian Federation changes (…), people living in the territory subject to the change of state ownership, have the right to choose their nationality (choice of citizenship) in the manner and within time limit established by the relevant international treaty of the Russian Federation” (Art. 17 of the Law ). Still, the Crimea is not a subject of international law, therefore it is not possible to conclude an international treaty with it. Such a treaty can only be concluded between Russia and Ukraine; however, such a treaty has not been concluded. Accordingly, the procedure for unilateral granting of citizenship cannot be legally executed. Nevertheless, counsel Svetlana Sidorkina does not expect to receive a favourable ruling from the Russian court, and so, she is preparing to file a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. Oleg Sentsov’s defence is yet to make attempts to prove in court that the filmmaker is a citizen of Ukraine. Investigators and the court uphold the view that the detainees are citizens of the Russian Federation. Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office initially recognised the detainees as citizens of Ukraine. This is stated in the reply from the General Prosecutor’s Office dated 21 October, 2014, to the appeal of People’s Deputy of Ukraine, Alexander Brigints. The MP’s appeal was prepared in cooperation with the Open Dialog Foundation. “The key issue in the response is the recognition of our guys by the Russian Federation as citizens of Ukraine. I hope that it will somehow help their lawyers to turn the case in favour of the detainees. In all other respects, the General Prosecutor’s Office has not actually considered or responded to my questions on the merits”, – Alexander Briginets stated. The response of the General Prosecutor’s Office has caused reverbaration in the media, and soon, the agency changed its position with respect to the citizenship of the Ukrainians. The Open Dialog Foundation received a letter from the General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation dated 28 November, 2014, which states that Alexey Chirnyi is the only one among the accused to have maintained Ukrainian citizenship, since he did file the necessary application to maintain the Ukrainian citizenship, while other defendants had not filed such a statement and automatically became citizens of the Russian Federation after the annexation of the Crimea by Russia.
6. Russian authorities declare that they will not release Sentsov as a prisoner of warFor some time, the media in Russia and Ukraine have speculated about a possible exchange of Oleg Sentsov, as well as another well-known Ukrainian prisoner of the Russian regime, Nadiya Savchenko, for Russian soldiers who were captured by the Ukrainian army during the fighting in the east of Ukraine.
Sentsov's release is demanded by:
- the president and the Government of Ukraine
- the Russian KinoSoyuz (Russian Film Union)
- the Confederation of Unions of Cinematographers of the CIS and the Baltic States
- the European Film Academy
- filmmakers from around the world: Pedro Almodovar, Wim Wenders, Mike Lee, Krzysztof Zanussi, Andrzej Wajda, Stallan Skarsgård and Ken Loach
7. International and Ukrainian community continue to actively support Oleg SentsovThe campaign in support of Oleg Sentsov is carried out globally. The president and the Government of Ukraine, the Russian KinoSoyuz (Russian Film Union), the Confederation of Unions of Cinematographers of the CIS and the Baltic States, the European Film Academy and filmmakers from around the world: Pedro Almodovar, Wim Wenders, Mike Lee, Krzysztof Zanussi, Andrzej Wajda, Stallan Skarsgård and Ken Loach issued statements condemning the illegal detention and demanding the release of Oleg Sentsov. On 24 June, 2014, Amnesty International issued a demand that an independent investigation into the possible exertion of torture on Oleg Sentsov be carried out. On 24 August, 2014, wishing to mark the Independence Day of Ukraine, President Poroshenko signed a decree awarding Oleg Sentsov the Bravery order of the Third Degree. On 27 August, 2014, during the opening of the Venice Film Festival, organisers left two empty seats at a press conference for the opening of the event. Festival director Alberto Barbera stated that in this way, the organisers wish to draw global attention to the trumped-up criminal cases against the Ukrainian Oleg Sentsov and the Iranian Mahnaz Mohammadi. From 3 September, 2014 to 9 September, 2014, in Kiev, as well as from 2 December, 2014 to 7 December, 2014, in Odessa, the ‘Week of Ukrainian cinema in support of Oleg Sentsov’ was held. In the course of events, 8 Ukrainian films which had been competing at international film festivals in recent years were shown. On 18 September, 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution regarding the situation in Ukraine, in which it called on the competent authorities of the Russian Federation to release the abducted Ukrainians – Oleg Sentsov, Alexey Chirnyi, Gennadiy Afanasyev, Alexander Kolchenko and Nadiya Savchenko. On 23 September, 2014, Representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Vincent Degert, on behalf of the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, answered the questions posed by the Open Dialog Foundation with respect to the case of Oleg Sentsov. According to Vincent Degert, the European Union raised the issue of illegal persecution of the Crimean activists at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. On 29 September, 2014, the European Parliament President, Martin Schulz, in response to an appeal of the Open Dialog Foundation, expressed concern and indignation at the actions of the Russian Federation in relation to Oleg Sentsov and other arrested residents of the Crimea. The European Parliament President declared that the EU and its member states would not cease in their efforts to exert pressure on the Russian authorities. On 9 November, 2014, Oleg Sentsov was bestowed the title of ‘honorary member of the jury of the 62nd International Film Festival’ in San Sebastian. In this way, the festival organisers expressed their support for the Ukrainian filmmaker. On 30 November, 2014, in support of Oleg Sentsov, the Moscow theatre ‘Theatre.doc’ hosted the reading of his play ‘Rooms’. It is also planned to organise the second reading on 18 December, 2014 at the ‘Sakharov Centre’ in Moscow. The donations collected will be transferred to Oleg Sentsov’s family. On 10 December, 2014, MEP Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz addressed a written inquiry to the European Commission, as to whether the case of the Crimean activists has been monitored on the EU level, and what actions the European Commission intends to take in order to ensure fair trials for the Ukrainians.
8. ConclusionsThe criminal case against Oleg Sentsov is a blatant example of the arbitrariness of Russian security services and the judicial bodies. On the basis of trumped-up charges of terrorism, the Ukrainian faces up to 20 years in prison.
The criminal case against Oleg Sentsov is a blatant example of the arbitrariness of Russian security services and the judicial bodies.
- UN Committee against Torture – Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Palais Wilson – 52, rue des Pâquis, 1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland), tel.: +41 22 917 97 06, E-mail: [email protected];
- High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Commission – European Commission Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, 1049 Brussels, tel.: +32 2 584 11 11;
- Administration of the President of the Russian Federation – 103132, Moscow, 23 Ilinka Street, entrance 11, tel:: +7 495 606-36-02;
- General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation – 125993, Moscow, 15a B. Dmitrovka Street, GSP-3, tel.: +7 495 987 56 56;
- Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation – 105005, Moscow, 2 Tekhnicheskiy Pereulok.