Five years ago the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Senstov was arrested and charged with terrorism. On 7th September 2019, in a move that people had been speculating about for weeks, Russia and Ukraine agreed to exchange 35 prisoners each: including the 24 Ukrainian seamen arrested in the Kerch strait in November last year as well as Senstov, arguably the most high profile prisoner. On Saturday the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought winning filmmaker finally returned to Ukraine after years of battling his incarceration, continuously denying the charges held against him by the Russian government.
His 2014 arrest and subsequent sentencing in 2015 sparked an international outcry, and was deemed farcical with many loudly proclaiming that Senstov had actually been unlawfully arrested for taking part in the pro-Ukrainian EuroMaidan movement and protesting against Russia's annexation of Crimea, Senstov's home territory. Organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch voiced their support for Senstov, helping raise awareness of his 145 –day hunger strike campaign for the release of the roughly 200 other Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia's jails, which nearly cost the activist his life.
Although this Saturday was a momentous day for Ukrainians, the relationship between the two countries is far from healed. Until then, the war in Eastern Ukraine will continue to grind on whilst hundreds of political prisoners face relentless, unjust punishment.
Article originally published by Veridi News