Top Canadian arts festivals call on Russia to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov

Top Canadian arts festivals call on Russia to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov
Image: Antonymon under a CC licence

20 June 2018

Two of Canada’s top art festivals have joined calls to free Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov from prison in Russia.

In a joint statement, both the Toronto Film Festival and the Luminato Arts Event called for the director’s release, describing his imprisonment as “a serious violation of international law”.

“As organisations that vehemently believe in the right, value and necessity of artistic and political expression, Sentsov and other political prisoners have been denied their basic human rights,” the statement said.

International calls for Sentsov’s release have been growing since the director went on hunger strike on 14 May, calling for the release of 64 Ukrainian prisoners across Russia. Among those to voice concerns are the European Film Academy, European Parliament, and French president Emmanuel Macron, as well as celebrities including Patrick Stewart, Johnny Depp and Steven King. The director is reportedly receiving nourishment via an IV line, but has not been examined by Ukrainian doctors.

Sentsov was arrested following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and jailed for 20 years following accusations that he had planned to blow up a statue of Lenin and set fire to the offices of a pro-Kremlin political party. His supporters maintain that both his arrest and conviction were politically-motivated.