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Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov in court in August 2015

Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and Nobel laureate, said he has nominated Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is imprisoned in Russia, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Walesa told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that he sees similarities between Sentsov’s situation and his own in the 1980s, when he was imprisoned by Polish authorities for his work as the leader of the Solidarity trade union.

“I was also in a difficult situation,” Walesa said in an interview published on August 29. “I also struggled. This award (Nobel Peace Prize) helped me, as well as Poland, in regaining freedom.

Lech Walesa
Lech Walesa

“For this reason, support is needed. First of all, thanking him for fighting. Secondly, encouraging him to continue his peaceful struggle.”

A filmmaker who was a vocal opponent of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Sentsov was arrested in Crimea that year and convicted the following year by a Russian court of planning to commit terrorist acts. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

His plight has drawn international support and calls from Western governments for him to be released.

He has been on hunger strike in a remote Russian prison since May 14.

Walesa, who was awarded the Peace Prize in 1983, said he would tell Sentsov that “you are on the right side.”

“It is good that there are people like you. It gives us hope that the world will improve -- so persevere, no matter what wrongs meet you, persevere, because you give the world an example of the right way to fight,” Walesa said.

Walesa also said the West was not doing enough to help defend Ukraine’s sovereignty against Russia.

“Europe and the world are lacking in solidarity. We did not have plans for these times. This disunity, this discord in Europe and in the world, all this causes us to not address issues such as Ukraine,” he said.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee each year receives several hundred nominations for the Peace Prize. Generally, the names of nominees are not released to the public for 50 years after their submission.

"[FSB officers] showed me a warrant saying that I am suspected of having ties with terrorist organizations based in Ukraine proper," said activist Olha Pavlenko.

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- Security officials in Russia-annexed Crimea have searched the home of a local Ukrainian activist on suspicion of having ties to “terrorist organizations” in Ukraine.

The activist, Olha Pavlenko, told RFE/RL on August 29 that agents from the Federal Security Service confiscated her mobile phone, flash-memory cards, and notebooks that contained poems.

Pavlenko, a member of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Crimea, said the search of her home in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol, lasted three hours.

"After my lawyer arrived, I allowed [the FSB officers] to enter and they showed me a warrant saying that I am suspected of having ties with terrorist organizations based in Ukraine proper," Pavlenko said.

She added that she was ordered to go to the Investigative Committee for questioning and that she will discuss with her lawyers when to report.

There was no confirmation of the search by authorities.

The Ukrainian Culture Center in Crimea is a group promoting Ukrainian culture and language in the region. Its activists have been under pressure since Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

One of the center's leaders, Leonid Kuzmin, fled Crimea in 2017 after he received threats from unknown people and was pressured by police.

Russia has prosecuted and imprisoned several Ukrainians on what rights activists say are trumped up, politically motivated charges since Moscow seized the Black Sea region.

In March 2017, the European Parliament called on Russia to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens who were in prison or subject to other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

Russia seized Crimea after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power by massive street protests in February 2014.

Russia also fomented fighting in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 people have been killed since April 2014.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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