Oleg Sentsov

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Oleg Gennadyevich Sentsov
Sakharov Prize 2018 laureate Oleg Sentsov receives his award (49127359156) cropped.jpg
Oleg Sentsov in 2019
Born (1976-07-13) 13 July 1976 (age 44)
Alma materKyiv National Economic University
Years active2008–present

Oleg Gennadyevich Sentsov (Ukrainian: Олег Геннадійович Сенцов, Oleh Hennadiiovych Sentsov; born 13 July 1976) is a Ukrainian filmmaker, writer and activist[1] from Crimea. As a filmmaker he shot his film in 2011 Gamer. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea he was arrested in Crimea in May 2014 and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment by a Russian court in August 2015 on charges of plotting terrorism acts.[2] The conviction was described as fabricated by Amnesty International and others.[3] He was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2018.[4] On 7 September 2019 he was released in a prisoner swap.[5]


Sentsov was born on 13 July 1976[6] in Simferopol, Crimean Oblast, Ukrainian SSR.[7] He is an ethnic Russian.[8] From 1993 to 1998 he was an economics student in Kyiv and later took courses in film directing and screenwriting in Moscow.[7] His first two short movies were A Perfect Day for Bananafish (2008) and The Horn of a Bull (2009).[7] Gamer, his first feature, debuted at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2012.[2][7] Its success in this and other festivals helped him secure funding for the forthcoming feature Rhino, production on which was postponed due to his work with the Euromaidan protest movement.[9] It was scheduled to begin shooting in the summer of 2014.[10]

After the November 2013 breakout of the Euromaidan protests Sentsov became an activist of "AutoMaidan" and during the 2014 Crimean crisis he helped deliver food and supplies to Ukrainian military servicemen trapped in their Crimean bases.[2] Sentsov stated that he did not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea.[11][nb 1]

Sentsov affair[edit]

Arrest and detention[edit]

Sentsov was arrested on 11 May 2014 in Crimea on suspicion of "plotting terrorist acts".[2][11] With Gennady Afanasyev, Alexei Chirniy, and Alexander Kolchenko,[15] he became one of four Ukrainian citizens held by Russia's Federal Security Service, who accused them of seeking to carry out terrorist attacks on bridges, power lines, and public monuments in the Crimean cities Simferopol, Yalta, and Sevastopol.[2] These charges are punishable with up to 20 years in prison.[2]

After holding Sentsov without charges for three weeks,[16] the Federal Security Service accused the four Ukrainians of being "part of a terrorist community, to carry out explosions with home-made devices on May 9, 2014 near the Eternal Flame memorial and Lenin monument in Simferopol and to set fire to the offices of the Russian Community of Crimea public organization and the United Russia party branch in Simferopol on April 14 and April 18, 2014".[15] Sentsov, Afanasyev, Chirniy and Kolchenko were also accused of membership in Ukraine's nationalist paramilitary group, Right Sector, a claim that both Sentsov and Right Sector denied.[2][11][15] Russian prosecutors stated that Sentsov confessed to the terrorist plots.[2] But the filmmaker and his lawyer Dmitry Dinze denied this and he and Sentsov himself have stated that Sentsov was beaten and threatened with rape to force his confession.[2][11] According to Sentsov's lawyers, investigators refused to open a case on his allegations of torture, suggesting that his bruises were self-inflicted and that he was keen on sado-masochism.[17]

Starting on 19 May 2014, Sentsov was detained in Moscow's Lefortovo prison.[2][15] On 26 June 2014 Russia's Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights appealed to Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin to review the circumstances surrounding the arrests of Sentsov and Kolchenko.[2] A reply, posted on the council's website, stated prosecutors found "no grounds" for altering the detention of either suspect.[2] On 7 July 2014 Sentsov's arrest was extended to 11 October.[10] In October 2014 his arrest was again extended to 11 January 2015.[18]

Ukrainian authorities were banned by their Russian counterparts to contact or help Sentsov.[19] According to Sentsov he has been deprived of his citizenship of Ukraine.[11] In August 2019, Sentsov was moved from an Arctic prison to a jail in Moscow amid possible talks of prisoners swaps.[20]


Sentsov during his trial

Sentsov went on trial for terrorism in Russia on 21 July 2015 among international outcry and an open letter by prominent European film directors Pedro Almodóvar, Ken Loach, Béla Tarr, and Wim Wenders.[21]

The main witness for the prosecution, Gennady Afanasyev, retracted his testimony in court on 31 July, saying it was given under duress.[22][23] According to the Afanasyev's lawyer, his defendant was actually tortured, including with electric current.[24] The other main witness Oleksiy Chirnyi refused to testify in court.[25]

A Russian court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced Sentsov to 20 years in prison on 25 August.[17][26] He was then imprisoned in Yakutsk.[27] Sentsov initially served his sentence in the Russian federal subject Sakha Republic.[28] In September 2017 he was reportedly transferred to Russia's northernmost prison in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.[29] He declines visits by his family after observing that once the visitors leave other prisoners "fall into terrible deep depression".[28] In October 2016 Russia refused to extradite Sentsov to Ukraine, claiming that he is a Russian citizen.[30]


Sentsov was serving his term in the Labytnangi Penal Colony[31] in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in the North of Russia. On 14 May 2018, he went on an open-ended hunger strike protesting the incarceration of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and demanding their release.[32][33][34] After 145 days of the hunger strike,[4] he ended it due to health concerns and the threat of force-feeding.[4][35]



According to the Ombudsperson of Ukraine Valeriya Lutkovska, the decision of the Rostov court towards Ukrainians Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko constitutes discrimination on national origin.[36]

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, in a statement on its website, called the trial "a judicial farce".[37]


Anti-Putin rally in Moscow, 10 June 2018. Participants are wearing "Free Sentsov" T-shirts.

On 26 June 2014, Russia's Presidential Council for Human Rights appealed to Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin to review the circumstances surrounding the arrests of Sentsov and fellow activist Oleksandr Kolchenko.[2] A reply, posted on the council's website, stated prosecutors found "no grounds" for altering the detention of either suspect.[2]

More than 60 members of the Russian PEN center and several major Russian filmmakers expressed their support, including Nikita Mikhalkov, Andrey Zvyagintsev and Alexander Sokurov.[37][38][30][34]

The Human Rights Center Memorial has declared that Sentsov and Kolchenko are political prisoners in Russia.[39]


The European Union and the United States condemned Sentsov's detention and called for his release.[21][40]

The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini stated that "the EU considers the case to be in breach of international law and elementary standards of justice."[41]

Western governments, Amnesty International, and European Film Academy deputy chairman Mike Downey described the proceedings as a show trial.[22][42][43][44]

The United States called the sentencing a "miscarriage of justice", stating that "Mr. Sentsov and Mr. Kolchenko were targeted by authorities because of their opposition to Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea." Saying that Sentsov and Kolchenko were "taken hostage on Ukrainian territory", it called upon the Russian Federation to "implement the commitments it made in signing the Minsk agreements by immediately releasing Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Nadia Savchenko, and all other remaining hostages".[45]

The German government's special envoy for human rights and humanitarian affairs said in a statement that he was "shaken" by the severity of the sentences and urged Russia to comply with Council of Europe norms for the humane treatment of prisoners.[37]

European directors Agnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Pedro Almodóvar co-signed a 10 June 2014 letter by the European Film Academy to Russian authorities, demanding that the charges against Sentsov be dropped and the allegations of torture investigated.[2][9][46] Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf dedicated his acceptance of the 2015 Robert Bresson Prize of the Venice Film Festival to Sentsov, calling the conviction a "major injustice" and the sentence "a move to intimidate all Russian society, especially the intellectuals and artists".[47]

The European Parliament supported a resolution on the immediate release of Oleg Sentsov and other Ukrainian political prisoners.[48] Before the vote, all major political groups in the European Parliament, when discussing the human rights situation in Russia, called for the release of Oleg Sentsov and 158 other political prisoners held in the country. The participants of the debate stressed the need to continue the sanctions pressure on the Kremlin, and European leaders and diplomats urged not to attend the World Cup, which opens June 14 in Russia.[49]

The Sejm of Poland adopted a resolution on 15 June 2018 demanding the release of Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia for political reasons. In the resolution deputies demand, in particular, to release Oleg Sentsov, Olexandr Kolchenko, and Roman Sushchenko.[50]

Sentsov was granted the title of honorary citizen of Paris on 24 September 2018.[51] Sentsov was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize on 25 October 2018, in a move described by The Guardian as an EU rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin.[4]

In November 2018 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which called for the urgent release of Ukrainian citizens Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh and Emir-Usein Kuku.


Return of Oleg Sentsov to Ukraine

On 7 September 2019, in a prisoner swap with Ukraine,[5][52][53][54] Russia released Oleg Sentsov. On that same day he returned to Kyiv, where he and other returning prisoners were welcomed by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky[55] and where Sentsov reunited with his family.[55]

The swap and release of prisoners was welcomed by American,[56] French and German leaders and leaders of international organizations such as NATO,[57] OSCE[58] and regional (European Parliament).[59][60]



Year Film
Director Screenwriter Producer Actor Role Notes
2011 Gamer
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
2013 Rhino
Green tickY
Green tickY
not finished[61]
2017 The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov
Green tickY
cameo documentary[62]


  • «Купите книгу — она смешная» ("Buy the book, it is funny", 2014)[63]
  • Рассказы ("Tales". Kyiv: Laurus, 2015)


  • «Номера» (Nomera) — playwright.[64][65]


Sentsov is a father of two, Alina (b. 2003) and Vladislav (b. 2004).[66][28]


  • Order "For Courage" I century. (September 24, 2015) - for personal courage and dedication shown in defending the constitutional rights and freedoms of man, the integrity of the Ukrainian state;[67]
  • Taras Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine 2016 - for feature films "Homer" and "Rhino";[68]
  • The Sakharov Award for Courage;[69][70]
  • European Memory and Conscience Platform Award (November 14, 2018)[71]
  • Serhiy Magnitsky International Prize for Investigative Journalism and Human Rights in the World (November 16, 2018).[72] The award was presented in person on November 14, 2019.
  • Pro Dignitate Humana Award (October 23, 2018)[73]
  • Neptune Award of the Solidarity of Arts Festival in Gdańsk (August 23, 2019)[74]
  • Winner of the Stanisław Vincenz City Award in Kraków (2020)[75]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Since Ukraine lost the control over the peninsula to Russia in March 2014 the status of the Crimea and of the city of Sevastopol is under dispute between Russia and Ukraine; Ukraine and the majority of the international community consider the Crimea to be an autonomous republic of Ukraine and Sevastopol to be one of Ukraine's cities with special status, while Russia, on the other hand, considers the Crimea to be a federal subject of Russia and Sevastopol to be one of Russia's three federal cities.[12][13][14]


  1. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (25 October 2018). "Rights Prize Goes to Oleg Sentsov, a Russian Prisoner, in a Rebuke to Putin". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Ukrainian Filmmaker Remains Behind Bars Despite Growing Support, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (June 26, 2014)
  3. ^ Walker, Shaun (25 August 2015). "Russian court jails Ukrainian film-maker for 20 years over terror offences". theguardian.com.
  4. ^ a b c d "EU rebukes Putin with human rights prize to jailed Ukrainian film-maker". The Guardian. 25 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b Lapin, Denis; Pavlova, Olga; Britton, Bianca; Dean, Sarah. "Film director Oleg Sentsov and MH17 suspect among those freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap". CNN. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Pardon my son": Sentsov's mother appeals to Putin, UNIAN (13 July 2018)
  7. ^ a b c d "Oleg Sentsov". International Film Festival Rotterdam. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Almodovar, Leigh petition Putin on jailed Ukrainian Oleg Sentsov". Los Angeles Times. 10 June 2014.
  9. ^ a b Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and others call for release of Ukrainian director, The Guardian (10 June 2014)
  10. ^ a b (in Ukrainian) The Court extended the arrest in Moscow Ukrainian director, Ukrayinska Pravda (7 July 2014)
  11. ^ a b c d e (in Ukrainian) Oleg Sentsov: I was tortured and humiliated, Ukrayinska Pravda (7 July 2014)
  12. ^ Gutterman, Steve. "Putin signs Crimea treaty, will not seize other Ukraine regions". Reuters.com. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Ukraine crisis: Timeline". bbc.co.uk. 13 November 2014.
  14. ^ UN General Assembly adopts resolution affirming Ukraine's territorial integrity Archived 2018-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, China Central Television (28 March 2014)
  15. ^ a b c d Ukrainian film director Sentsov to remain in custody - Moscow City Court, Interfax-Ukraine (8 August 2014)
  16. ^ For Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, a battle with no end in sight, Los Angeles Times (16 July 2014)
  17. ^ a b Russia Jails Ukraine Director Sentsov on Terror Charges. 2015. BBC (August 25).
  18. ^ Ukraine film director Sentsov to stay in custody, Interfax-Ukraine (24.10.2014)
  19. ^ (in Ukrainian) Russia does not even because of arrested Ukrainian director Sentsov, Ukrayinska Pravda (20 June 2014)
  20. ^ "Jailed Ukrainian filmmaker brought to Moscow amid prisoner swap..." Reuters. 29 August 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  21. ^ a b Luhn, Alec. "Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov goes on trial for terrorism in Russia". Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  22. ^ a b Ukrainian Filmmaker Tells Russian Court He Will "Suffer or Die" for His Beliefs. The Guardian (19 August).
  23. ^ "Процесс Сенцова. Допрос Афанасьева". МедиаЗона. 31 July 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  24. ^ Convicted in the case about "Crimean terrorists" Afanasyev has told about tortures after his detention and pressure after his refusal to testify in court (Осужденный по делу «крымских террористов» Афанасьев рассказал о пытках после задержания и давлении после отказа от показаний в суде). Mediazona. 5 August 2015
  25. ^ "Challenge Putin's Lies about imprisoned Ukrainian Filmmaker Oleg Sentsov". khpg.org. Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  26. ^ Walker, Shaun. "Russian court jails Ukrainian film-maker for 20 years over terror offences". theguardian.com. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  27. ^ Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko are acknowledged as citizens of Ukraine, Ukraine Today (24 March 2016)
  28. ^ a b c Letter from Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov smuggled out of prison, The Guardian (12 September 2016)
  29. ^ "Ukrainian Filmmaker Sentsov Reportedly To Be Transferred To Russian Far North Prison". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty.
  30. ^ a b Putin on revision of Sentsov verdict: "Appropriate conditions should ripen", UNIAN (2 December 2016)
  31. ^ ФКУ ИК-8 УФСИН России по Ямало-Ненецкому автономному округу http://www.89.fsin.su/structural_units/ik8.php
  32. ^ Grater, Tom (25 August 2018). "Oleg Sentsov 12 days into hunger strike". Screen Daily. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  33. ^ "Вместе и до конца": режиссер Сенцов, осужденный в России на 20 лет колонии, объявил голодовку, требуя освободить 64 украинца (in Russian). Newsru. 16 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  34. ^ a b "Ten reasons you should give a damn why Oleg Sentsov's hunger strike matters". Meduza. 8 June 2018. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  35. ^ Oliver Carroll. Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov ends 145-day hunger strike in Russian jail at The Independent, 5 October 2018
  36. ^ Lutkovska sees in the Sentsov's case a discrimination on national origin. Ukrinform. 4 September 2015
  37. ^ a b c Kishkovsky, Sophia (25 August 2015). "Russia Gives Ukrainian Filmmaker Oleh Sentsov a 20-Year Sentence". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  38. ^ "Ukraine film director Sentsov in 'terror' trial in Russia - BBC News". Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  39. ^ ""Мемориал" считает Олега Сенцова и Александра Кольченко политзаключенными". www.memo.ru. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  40. ^ US calls on Russia to immediately release detained Ukrainian citizens Savchenko and Sentsov, Interfax Ukraine (18.10.2014)
  41. ^ "European Union - EEAS (European External Action Service) | Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini on the sentencing by a Russian court of Ukrainian citizens O. Sentsov and O. Kolchenko". eeas.europa.eu. 25 August 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  42. ^ Controversial Trial of Ukrainian Filmmaker Closes in Russia. 2015. The Telegraph (August 19).
  43. ^ Ovcharuk, Bogdan. 2015. "The System Does Not Forgive" – Crimean Activists Hauled before a Russian Military Court. Amnesty International (August 10).
  44. ^ "Russian Federation: Drop terror charges against Ukrainian activists: Oleh Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko". www.amnesty.org. 30 July 2015. EUR 46/2202/2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  45. ^ "Sentencing of Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  46. ^ "European Film Academy: Help Us to Help Oleg Sentsov !". www.europeanfilmacademy.org. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  47. ^ "Mohsen Makhmalbaf voices support for imprisoned fellow director Oleg Sentsov". The Guardian. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  48. ^ "European Parliament Urges Russia To Release Sentsov, 'Political Prisoners'". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. 14 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  49. ^ "European Parliament to call for release of political prisoners". Greens/EFA. 13 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  50. ^ Roś, Edyta. "Sejm podjął uchwałę ws. uwolnienia obywateli Ukrainy więzionych z przyczyn politycznych". gazetaprawna.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  51. ^ Sentsov becomes honorary citizen of Paris, Interfax-Ukraine (24 September 2018)
  52. ^ Gershkovich, Evan (7 September 2019). "Signaling Readiness for Thaw, Russia and Ukraine Swap Prisoners". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  53. ^ "Reuters: Sentsov, 24 Ukrainian sailors in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap | KyivPost - Ukraine's Global Voice". KyivPost. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  54. ^ "Filmmaker Sentsov, 24 Ukrainian sailors in Russia-Ukraine prisoner..." Reuters. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  55. ^ a b "President: Together with all Ukraine we will return not only people, but also our territories". Official website of the President of Ukraine. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  56. ^ "Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners in bid to ease tension between the two nations". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  57. ^ NATO (7 September 2019). "Statement by NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu". NATO. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  58. ^ OSCE (7 September 2019). "OSCE Media Freedom Representative welcomes release of Sentsov, Sushchenko and Vyshinsky, thanks both countries for this achievement". OSCE - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  59. ^ Nechepurenko, Karasz, Ivan, Palko (7 September 2019). "Russia and Ukraine Swap Dozens of Prisoners, 'the First Step to Stop the War'". The New York Times.
  60. ^ Englund, Will (7 September 2019). "Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners in bid to ease tension between the two nations". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  61. ^ Saakaov, R. "The Sentsov's film in Moscow and the fate of Crimean dissenting (Фильм Сенцова в Москве и судьба крымских «несогласных»)" BBC (Russian service), 30 October 2014
  62. ^ "Process" – documentary about the court trials over Oleg Sentsov («Процесс» — документальный фильм о суде над Олегом Сенцовым). Смотрите полностью на «Медузе» Meduza, 05.2018
  63. ^ Олег Сенцов. (11 June 2014). "Купите книгу – она смешная". Литературный журнал «Процесс». Archived from the original on 8 April 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  64. ^ "В Киеве пройдет читка пьесы Олега Сенцова". colta.ru. 12 March 2015.
  65. ^ "В Киеве провели благотворительное чтение пьесы Олега Сенцова". Крым. Реалии. 19 March 2015.
  66. ^ Sergatskova, Ye. Oleg Sentsov, a victim of terrorist action (Олег Сенцов, жертва теракта). Colta. 16 May 2014
  67. ^ "Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України". Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  68. ^ "Sentsov got his National T. Shevchenko Prize, awarded in 2016". imi.org.ua. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  69. ^ "Oleg Sentsov and two other Kremlin hostages receive Sakharov Award for Courage".
  70. ^ "Imprisoned Ukrainian Film Director Oleh Sentsov Wins Sakharov Prize". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  71. ^ "Oleg Sentsov was awarded with the Platform of European Memory and Conscience Prize". Національний музей Голодомору-геноциду. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  72. ^ "Imprisoned Ukrainian Director Oleg Sentsov Awarded Human Rights Prize | Hollywood Reporter". www.hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  73. ^ "У Польщі Сенцову присудили нагороду Pro Dignitate Humana". Радіо Свобода (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  74. ^ "Opinion | Sentsov received Neptune Prize at the Solidarity of Arts festival in Poland". Opinion. 24 August 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  75. ^ "Oleg Sencow laureatem nagrody im. Stanisława Vincenza".

External links[edit]