From Crimea to Siberia: How Russia is Tormenting Political Prisoners Sentsov and Kolchenko


Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and activist Sasha Kolchenko were both detained in occupied Crimea on May 10, 2014. They were accused of plotting terrorist acts, taken to Russia and convicted. Kolchenko was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Sentsov – 20 on fabricated charges and based on testimonies given under tortures.

Two other Ukrainians – Gennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksiy Chirniy – were arrested with Sentsov and Kolchenko. Afanasiev was released in a 2016 prisoner exchange, and Chirniy is still in a penal colony in Magadan.

Four years after his arrest and thousands of kilometers away from his initial place of detention, Sentsov announces a hunger strike. His sole condition for its end is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners located on the territory of the Russian Federation. Together with the ones that are held in Russia-occupied Crimea, there are 64 of them.

Of the 64 political prisoners, 27 are held on the territory of the Russian Federation while the rest are in Crimea. Among them, 58 were detained on the territory of the occupied peninsula.

Sentsov and Kolchenko were first held in a detention center in Moscow, tried in Rostov, transported to the Urals and then to the Russian Arctic. Between the two of them, they have covered almost 20,000 kilometers, or, half the distance around the Earth. Their entire journey has been within Russia. Or actually, within its prison system.

We travelled to the key sites along their transport route – where the Ukrainian consuls were denied access and where lawyers today face difficulties getting in – to find out in what conditions they are being kept and who is responsible for their fate.

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