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A terrorist in one country and an indie film director in another Oleg Sentsov disputes his 20-year prison sentence in Russia’s Supreme Court. Here’s all you need to know.

Source: Meduza
Photo: Mikhail Pochuev / ТАСС / Scanpix

Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years in Russian prison on charges of terrorism, has filed an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court against the verdict. Earlier, Ukrainian authorities announced they are preparing to contest the Russian court’s decision at the European Court of Human Rights. Meduza takes a look at the details of one of the most high-profile cases in Russia.

Who is Oleg Sentsov?

Oleg Sentsov is from Simferopol, the capital of Crimea. Until May 2014, Sentsov was known only among movie buffs interested in Ukrainian independent film. His 2011 movie Gaamer, about a boy from a Ukrainian village who spends most of his time playing video games, was shown at several film festivals, including the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. In 2014, Sentsov planned to begin filming Rhinoceros, a movie about the 1990s generation. But 2014 also brought mass protests against the Ukrainian government to the streets of Kiev, and Sentsov left Simferopol to join the Automaidan movement. He was tasked with driving his car around Kiev, patrolling the streets and looking out for provocations, in order to warn the protesters. Sentsov is 39 years old, married, and has two children.

What was his alleged crime?

A Russian military court has sentenced Oleg Sentsov to 20 years in a high-security prison for supposedly planning a terrorist attack in Crimea.

According to the investigation, right after Crimea joined Russia in the spring of 2014, Oleg Sentsov gave orders to his co-conspirators to blow up a Lenin statue in the Crimean city of Simferopol. Investigators also claimed that Sentsov planned a terrorist attack at Simferopol’s eternal flame monument for May 9, during Russia’s Victory Day celebrations.

Who else is involved?

There are seven co-defendants in the case in addition to Sentsov. Of those seven, three have been sentenced to time in prison.

Gennady Afanasyef (a lawyer) and Alexei Cherniy (a teaching assistant at the Crimean Institute of Culture) have both been handed seven-year prison sentences. They testified that they had been part of a terrorist group headed by Sentsov. Cherniy’s former lawyer claims that he had testified against Sentsov in hopes of a plea deal.

Sentsov’s co-defendant Alexander Kolchenko was sentenced to ten years in prison for firebombing the Crimean office of Russia’s ruling United Russia party. Kolchenko is a left-wing anti-fascist activist. After the sentences were read to Sentsov and Kolchenko in a Russian military court on July 26, they sang the Ukrainian anthem together in the courtroom.

Support for Sentsov

Many prominent public figures have expressed their concern about Sentsov’s trial. British film director Ken Loach, German director Wim Wenders, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, Polish film and theater director Andrzej Wajda, and Russian film director Andrei Zvyagintsev have all appealed to Vladimir Putin to set Sentsov free. Film director Nikita Mikhalkov, who is known for his conservative pro-Kremlin views, has also spoken out in support of Sentsov. The Human Rights Center “Memorial” has declared that Sentsov and Kolchenko are political prisoners in Russia.

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