Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron will on Friday discuss with Vladimir Putin the case of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who has been on hunger strike in a Russian jail for almost three months, Macron’s office said. Sentsov launched a hunger strike in May, ahead of the World Cup which Russia hosted, calling on Moscow to free all its Ukrainian political prisoners. He has vowed to continue his protest to the end.
He is being sustained with water and a drip with glucose and vitamins and Sentsov’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze told AFP earlier this week that his client had lost 30 kilogrammes, his heart rate has slowed and he has very low levels of red blood cells.
Macron has already brought up the Sentsov issue several times with Russian President Putin, including suring a visit to Saint Petersburg back in May.
The 42-year-old Sentsov is serving a 20-year sentence in the far north of Russia after being convicted three years ago of arson attacks in his native Crimea following its annexation by Moscow. A cousin said Wednesday that Sentsov was in a “catastrophically bad” state and could be close to death.
However Ukrainian human rights official Lioudmila Denissova on Thursday posted photos of Sentsov on Facebook and said he was doing remarkably well under the circumstances.
The three pictures showed Sentsov dressed in a black and grey prison uniform with a neutral look on his face. Denissova expressed surprise at how well the hunger striker was bearing up, describing him as being in a “satisfactory” condition.
“He is active, watches television, reads books, he writes from time to time,” she said, adding that the three pictures she posted were taken by prison staff and shared with Sentsov’s consent.
Sentsov’s lawyer Dmitri Dinze responded that the filmmaker was “worse in reality,” suggesting that the photos had been manipulated.
Western governments, led by Macron, as well as celebrities including US actor Johnny Depp and writer Stephen King have repeatedly urged the Kremlin to release Sentsov.