Oleg Sentsov allowed to use Sakharov Prize money in Russian prison

Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov will have an opportunity to buy food and everyday items in the prison shop. Russian jailers promised not to prevent him from spending some money he had got as part of the 2018 Sakharov Prize.

According to the press office of the Federal Penitentiary Service, one can transfer Russian rubles into the account of the detention facility, and the money will be deposited into Sentsov’s personal account.

The Russian authorities green-light convicts’ making some purchases if they use funds received while serving their sentence. However, there are limitations, and it has not been reported whether Sentsov’s case falls under any of them.

The Ukrainian filmmaker, who is currently held in Russian prison, was declared this year’s winner of the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on October, 25.

“Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the film maker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world. By awarding him the Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament is expressing its solidarity with him and his cause,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said when announcing the laureate.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded every year by the European Parliament. It was established in 1988 to honour individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In August 2015, a Russian court sentenced Oleg Sentsov to 20 years of imprisonment. He was found guilty of an “attempt to organize a ‘cell of Right Sector [Ukrainian right-wing organisation] in Crimea”. The trial was held in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, The case was considered by North Caucasus District Military Court. The film director did not admit his guilt.

The charge was based on the testimony of Alexey Chyrny and Gennady Afanasiev. In court Afanasiev withdrew evidence saying that he had been tortured in jail. It is impossible to swap Sentsov for any Russian prisoner in Ukraine, because after the annexation of Crimea Russia started considering the Ukrainian director a citizen of Russia.

Sentsov, who demands that the Russian authorities release more than 60 Ukrainians jailed in Russia and Crimea, went on hunger strike on May, 14. The 42-year-old prisoner who has never asked president Vladimir Putin for pardon. He stopped his 145-day hungerstrike in early October. He is experiencing serious health complications in the Russian penal colony.