Fifth anniversary of Ukrainian director's Russian detention marked

Kiev (AFP) –


A protest in Ukraine's capital Kiev on Friday marked the fifth anniversary of the arrest of Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov by Russian authorities.

Sentsov, who won the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize last year, is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian penal colony north of the Arctic Circle following his 2015 conviction over claims of an arson plot in Crimea.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside several European embassies in Kiev on Friday, with their mouths taped shut, holding signs that said "Do you remember?" in an effort to push the West not to forget Sentsov's plight.

Other signs read "Artist, not a terrorist", referring to the charges for which Sentsov was jailed in a trial that Amnesty International likened to "Stalinist-era show trials."

The father-of-two was arrested at his home in the Crimean capital Simferopol on May 10, 2014 after taking part in protests against the peninsula's annexation by Moscow.

He then started a hunger strike in May last year to demand the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia.

His deteriorating health provoked an outcry from the international community and he called off the protest after 145 days to avoid being force-fed.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin wrote on Facebook on Friday that "we are fighting for each of ours," referring to political prisoners in Russian jails.

"The fight will not stop until all of us return home," he added.

The European Parliament called on Russia to immediately release the film-maker when it awarded him the Sakharov prize, which was accepted by Sentsov's cousin.

"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," European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said in October.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to free Sentsov despite a star-studded global campaign to secure his release.