As the World Cup kicked off in Russia, a Ukrainian film director and writer was starting his 32nd day of a hunger strike. Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly plotting terrorist acts in Crimea, reported The Guardian. However, Sentsov claimed that he had been tortured to make a forced confession. Even so, Sentsov said that “I don’t know what your beliefs can possibly be worth if you are not ready to suffer or die for them,” and refused to say that he had committed any crime.
He told a Russian journalist that “I’m not a loser and do not beg for mercy … I was well aware of what was going on, for which I found myself here, and I do not regret anything.”
Sentsov was known to the Russian government for directing the movie Gamer and helping Ukrainian soldiers. He believes that he is being imprisoned for his peaceful protest of the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
The hunger strike is not just for Sentsov, but he is also looking for the release of 64 Ukrainian political prisoners, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Sentsov’s health is declining rapidly due to his hunger strike. His lawyer Dmitry Dinze said that Sentsov has lost 18 pounds after only drinking water since May 14. Also, Sentsov is on a glucose drip after doctors determined the hunger strike is headed towards irreversible stages.
An open letter by world artists, directors, and actors was read on the Echo of Moscow station, and this is what they asked of President Putin.
“Dear Mr. Putin! A man is dying. We don’t think his guilt is so great that he should have been given 20 years. He’s sincere and true in his convictions, and his indefinite hunger strike demonstrates this. It’s now necessary to show mercy in order to spare a man’s life.”
This is unlikely to sway Putin, who has remarked that public opinion will not change the outcome of the Russian courts.
One of Senstov’s correspondents is a Russian journalist, Zoya Svetova. She said, “I think that nobody would venture to talk him out of the hunger strike, knowing his resolute nature and tough spirit. I am very afraid for him.”
The success of Senstov’s hunger strike may depend on Western influences, suggested the Washington Post. Alexei Navalny, who was serving a 30-day jail sentence for protesting Putin’s inauguration, had some chilling words.
“I have been in detention for a week, and he has been on a hunger strike for a week. Fifteen days have gone by for me — so they have for him. Except we have a very different future ahead of us. Another fifteen days will pass, and I will be released, will hug my family, take a shower, and eat a home-cooked meal. Sentsov will die, alone in his cell, thousands of kilometers away from his family.”