Ukrainian hunger striker Sentsov 'ready to die': lawyer

Moscow (AFP) –


Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov is "ready to die" after hunger striking in a Russian jail for nearly three months, his lawyer said Friday.

The protest, which was discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during a phone call earlier, is aimed at convincing Moscow to free all its Ukrainian political prisoners.

"Of course Oleg, like any other person, does not want to die, but he is ready," Dmitry Dinze said in an interview with the news site Meduza.

"I think that deep down he is afraid, but he does not let this fear manifest itself."

The lawyer said Sentsov was neither suicidal nor mentally ill, adding: "Oleg has become a Ukrainian kamikaze who has put his life on the line to save the lives of others, for his ideals, for his country."

Putin promised to respond to proposals made by Macron to end Sentsov's hunger strike, the French leader's office said Friday.

The Russian department in charge of overseeing the application of prison sentences claimed Sentsov had "made no complaints" during a visit Friday by two members of a prisons oversight body.

In a statement the department said he had also refused their offer to have him transferred to hospital, "explaining that he did not consider himself ill."

During their call Friday morning Macron and Putin discussed the need to find "a humanitarian solution" to the situation, with Putin committing "to respond and quickly release details on Sentsov's health," the French presidency said in a statement.

A Kremlin statement on the call made no mention of Sentsov but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that his situation had been discussed.

"Yes, this matter was raised," he was quoted by the state TASS agency as saying.

Sentsov, 42, is serving a 20-year sentence in the far north of Russia after being convicted three years ago of arson attacks in his native Crimea following its annexation from Ukraine by Russia.

His cousin wrote on Facebook this week that his condition was "catastrophically bad" and that he had said in a letter that "the end is near".

Dinze said his client "reads books, writes and finishes scripts, writes stories" in his room.

"He works a lot, otherwise he could go crazy if he stayed lying down looking at the ceiling."

The lawyer told AFP earlier this week that his client had lost 30 kilograms (66 pounds), his heart rate had slowed and he had very low levels of red blood cells.

Western governments, led by Macron, as well as celebrities including actor Johnny Depp and writer Stephen King, have repeatedly urged the Kremlin to release Sentsov.