Rights group Amnesty International says it has been denied access to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year prison term in Russia and has been on a hunger strike the past 81 days.
Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International’s Ukraine director, on August 2 said the effort by Russian authorities “denying us the right to visit Oleh Sentsov is indefensible.”
Amnesty said it was given no reason for the rejection.
Sentsov, a vocal opponent of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, was sentenced in 2015 for conspiracy to commit terrorism, charges he and human rights groups say were politically motivated.
He has been on a hunger strike since mid-May in a penal colony in Russia's northern region of Yamalo-Nenets and has demanded that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners
Sentsov's lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, on July 27 said Sentsov was pale and lies down constantly because he has difficulty moving. Russian authorities have insisted Sentsov's condition is stable with no “negative dynamic.”
“After almost three months on hunger strike, there are grave concerns for his health,” Amnesty's Pokalchuk said.
She said Amnesty representatives were planning to visit Sentsov accompanied by an independent medical expert to help evaluate his condition.
“Amnesty International calls for Sentsov’s immediate release and demands that, while detained, he has access to qualified health professionals," Pokalchuk added.
Several groups have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon Sentsov, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the Ukrainian film director would have to ask for a pardon himself before it could be considered. Sentsov has so far said he would not ask for a pardon.