Filmmaker warns Russia wants Ukraine on its knees

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) –


Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, receiving a human rights prize from the European Parliament, warned Tuesday against attempts to thaw ties with Russia.

Sentsov was held in a Russian jail for the first five years of a 20-year sentence for allegedly planning attacks in Moscow-occupied Crimea.

But he was released in a prisoner swap in September and is now based in Kiev and still a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin's actions against Ukraine.

"We talk a lot about peace-building, about making peace with Russia, but I don't believe what Putin says and I encourage you not to either," he said.

Sentsov was in Strasbourg to formally receive his 2018 Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament's annual human rights award.

"Russia is a lie, the Russians don't want peace in the Donbas," he said, referring to the eastern Ukraine region held by Russian-backed separatists.

Next month, French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel will host a summit in Paris to try to advance peacemaking efforts.

In the medium term, Macron sees a cautious rapprochement with Putin's Russia as a key early step to building Europe's future security.

But Sentsov warned against naivety, saying of Russia "they want us to live on our knees, they want to direct European policy by their own means."

"Every time you think of holding out a hand to Russia, remember the 13,000 Ukrainian dead," he warned.