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Russian Military Trial Of Ukrainian Director Sentsov Resumes

  • RFE/RL

Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov (left) and co-defendant Oleksandr Kolchenko appear in court on July 21.

Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov (left) and co-defendant Oleksandr Kolchenko appear in court on July 21.

The Russian trial has resumed of Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov and a co-defendant accused of plotting terrorism in Crimea months after its unrecognized annexation by Russia.

Witness testimony began early on July 27 via videoconference from Crimea, as the proceedings at a district military court in the city of Rostov-on-Don entered their second day.

Sentsov, 39, who is charged with organizing a terrorist group, planning terrorist attacks, and illegally acquiring explosives, pleaded not guilty on July 21.

"I don't consider this court a court at all," he said at the time, "so you can consider whatever you want."

If found guilty, Sentsov could face up to 20 years in jail.

His fellow defendant, Oleksandr Kolchenko, who was charged with participating in the activities of a terrorist group, also denies any wrongdoing.

The defendants were arrested along with two other Ukrainian citizens -- Oleksiy Chyrniy and Hennadiy Afanasyev -- in May 2014, two months after Russia's forcible annexation of Crimea.

Chyrniy and Afanasyev were sentenced in April and December 2014, respectively, to seven years in jail after pleading guilty to participating in the activities of a terrorist group.

A UN resolution overwhelmingly asserted in 2014 that Crimea remained part of Ukraine, although Russian authorities have installed their own institutions and exercise day-to-day control.

Kyiv and Western governments have accused Russia of continued involvement in Ukraine, where a military conflict in the east pits pro-Russian separatists controlling large swaths of Donetsk and Luhansk against Ukrainian forces.

More than 6,500 people have died in that conflict since April 2014.

Sentsov is an internationally acclaimed film director whose first feature film, Gamer, about a computer-game-obsessed teenager, was presented at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2012.

The European Film Academy, Ukrainian Association of Cinematographers Chairman Serhiy Trymbach, and prominent directors including Russia's Nikita Mikhalkov, Germany's Wim Wenders, and Spain's Pedro Almodovar have all urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to assist in Sentsov's release.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called for Sentsov's immediate release in a phone call earlier this month with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande.

With reporting by Interfax and Ekho Moskvy