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Kremlin Rejects Sentsov's Mother's Pardon Request

Jailed Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov poses for a picture in the penal colony in Labytnangi on August 9.
Jailed Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov poses for a picture in the penal colony in Labytnangi on August 9.

The Kremlin has rejected a request by the mother of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov to pardon her son and release him from a Russian prison.

Ukraine's Hromadske TV showed the Kremlin's written answer to Lyudmyla Sentsova late on August 14 -- revealing that her July 13 request for a pardon was rejected on the grounds that Russian law requires that "a convicted individual must ask for clemency personally."

Sentsov has previously said that he will not ask for a pardon because he believes he was jailed on politically motivated charges and has not committed a crime.

The deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Iryna Herashchenko, criticized the Kremlin’s response to Sentsova's request, calling it "cynical" and noting that other prominent Ukrainian citizens jailed in Russia -- Nadia Savchenko, Akhtem Chiygoz, and Ilmi Umerov -- were pardoned and released without officially requesting a pardon.

"The Kremlin is lying!... [Russian President Vladimir] Putin knows that Oleh [Sentsov] will never ask for clemency," Herashchenko said. "The Russian Federation is implementing the scenario for the eventual murder of Oleh."

A member of Russia's Presidential Advisory Council On Human Rights, Zoya Svetova, told RFE/RL that Sentsov's health was "bad" as a result of his three-month hunger strike in a Russian prison.

Svetova made the remarks after she spent two hours meeting with Sentsov on August 14 at a penal colony in Labytnangi in Russia's northern region of Yamalo-Nenets.

Svetova said Sentsov himself described his health condition as "precritical." She also said the doctor who treats the filmmaker warned that Sentsov's internal organs may stop functioning at any time unless his hunger strike ends.

"He does not plan to stop the hunger strike," Svetova said. "He believes in his noble goal. He did all he could and says that now everything depends on a political decision. He does not see any other way at this point than to continue his hunger strike."

A vocal opponent of Russia's 2014 takeover of Crimea, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted by a Russian court in 2015 of conspiring to commit terrorist acts. Human rights groups have backed Sentsov's contention that the charges were politically motivated. Several governments and prominent figures have called on Putin to pardon Sentsov.

The 42-year-old Sentsov has been on a hunger strike at the penal colony since mid-May and is demanding that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens that he considers political prisoners.

He has indicated that he is prepared to die of starvation to press the cause, vowing to continue his protest "to the end."

With reporting by Hromadske
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