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Polish actor to Mikhalkov: I beg you, please, help Sentsov!

Oleh Sentsov
Polish actor to Mikhalkov: I beg you, please, help Sentsov!

The famous Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski wrote an open letter to Russian film director Nikita Mikhakov with an entreaty to help Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who have been sentenced for 20 years of strict colony regime in Russia.

Польский актер Даниэль Ольбрыхский.
Daniel Olbrychski

On 24 November, 39-year-old Oleh Sentsov once again faced trial in Moscow, only to have his appeal rejected. In August the military court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced him to 20 years in a labor camp. He is under arrest since when he was taken from his home in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea occupied by the Russians, on May 2014, along with four other Ukrainians: Oleksandr Kolchenko, sentenced to 10 years, Henadiy Afanasiev, sentenced to 7 years, and Oleksiy Chirniy, also sentenced to 7 years.

Prosecutors said that Sentsov was in cooperation with the Right Sector movement, forbidden in Russia as a terrorist group, which had a plan to set on fire the main offices of Putin’s political party “Yedinaia Rossiya” and the organization of the Russian Minority of Crimea.

The “terrorists,” a group of four, of who Sentsov was the supposed head, were expected to blow up the statue of Lenin in Simferopol. Sentsov was also accused of storing weapons and explosives. The accusations are mainly based on the testimonies of Afanasiev and Chirniy, which the former has withdrawn, confessing that it had been obtained under torture.

Kidnapped from home and tortured

Sencow categorically rejects the accusations. He says that he is only “guilty” of participating in the Euromaidan revolution in Kyiv, whісh was standing against “a bandit president”.

When Crimea got occupited by Russia, he was helping Ukrainian and foreign reporters to gain real news about the situation in the region.

Sentsov describes how he was kidnapped and tortured: “They threw me into the car with a bag over my head and brought me to the building of the FSB. They asked about the people who wanted to blow up monuments. I got kicked, beaten with hands, sticks. They threatened to rape me with a stick and to bury me in the forest.”

An appeal for his release and rehabilitation, signed by members of the European Film Academy, Pedro Almodovar, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Volker Schlöndorff, and Andrzej Wajda,  was send to the President of Russia, head of the FSB, Minister of the Interior, the Attorney General and the Speaker of the Duma. The artists wrote that they are shocked by the fate of their colleague who is accused on the basis of “confessions through torture.” The State Department the United States has the similar position.

Olbrychski: brother, only you can do something 

Nikita Mikhalkov, being a member of the Committee of Social and Cultures Affairs of Russia, has appealed to Putin for Sentsov’s release twice: at the Moscow film festival of 2014 and 2015. But Olbrychski asks Mikhalkov for more actions in his emotional and fraternal letter:

Dear Nikita, I tried to contact you before the first hearing in the process of Oleh Sentsov in Rostov. I asked you to contact me through your wife Tania, your production, and finally your assistant who answer your mobile phone. You did not call back. I heard, you were in China that time. I believe that the matter is so important that, before the next trial, which will take place on 24 November in Moscow, I will try to contact you again. This time in the form of an open letter.

Our nearly fifty fraternal friendship gives me a right to do act like this. You are not only one of the greatest artists of contemporary cinema. For me has always been a wonderful, deep and wise man. My Russian brother.I do not believe that you can think and feel differently than all the great creators of many countries who had signed the letters to President Putin for our Ukrainian colleague. The cruelty of the first-instance judgment reminds all the darkest judgments of the past of our common civilization and culture.

I appeal to you and I ask you, like your Polish brother, to do something! Among us, you are the closest to your president and to this case. You perfectly know, that we all will leave after us only the good things we do for others unselfishly.

Your Daniel

Warsaw, 17 November 2015

UPDATE. Mikhalkov has responded to Olbrychski’s letter, saying that Putin cannot influence the trial.

Olbrychski told about Mikhalkov’s response to Gazeta Wyborcza.

“Nikita Mikhalkov made it clear that President Putin may not interfere with the court’s decision. However, he may exercise the right to pardon,” said the Polish actor.

As Olbrychski noted, Mikhalkov in his letter said that the president can pardon someone only after a final judgment. According to the Polish actor, Mikhalkov wrote: “We will be watching closely to make every effort if Sentsov innocent.”

“I often reproached Mikhalkov that the Russians have borrowed their religion from Byzantium while we borrowed it from Rome. From here we have slightly different views of the world, because power comes from God for the Byzantines. Mikhalkov told me that his state is not Byzantine to that extent and that the president can not interfere in court decisions,”said Daniel Olbrychski.

[hr]Sentsov and Kolchenko are two of 12 Ukrainian prisoners illegally held in Russia. #LetMyPeopleGo is a campaign to free them from captivity. Find out more and sign up for updates here.

On November 26, Oleksandr Kolchenko, sentenced to 10 years of prison along with Oleh Sentsov, will turn 26 in Russian prison. Send him a birthday greeting, either a letter or a video greeting, to let him know he’s not alone.

This article has been edited from its original version to include information about the rejection of the appeal and three other prisoners jailed in the same case as Sentsov.

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