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Sentsov's Condition 'Catastrophic' As Hunger Strike Approaches Fourth Month


Unknown activists placed the banner on the Krymsky (Crimean) Bridge over the Moskva River.

MOSCOW -- The condition of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who has been on a hunger strike in a Russian prison for nearly three months, has worsened considerably, his lawyer and his cousin say.

Sentsov's cousin, Moscow-based journalist Natalya Kaplan, wrote on Facebook on August 8 that she received a letter from him through a lawyer who visited him the previous day.

"Things aren't just bad, they're catastrophically bad," Kaplan wrote.

"He wrote that the end is near -- and he wasn't talking about his release," she added, suggesting that he thinks he is close to death.

Sentsov's lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, said after visiting him that his client lost some 30 kilograms and has a very low hemoglobin level, resulting in anemia and a slow heartbeat of about 40 beats per minute.

Also on August 8 -- the 87th day of Sentsov's hunger strike -- a large banner demanding the immediate release of Sentsov and other political prisoners in Russia was displayed in downtown Moscow.

Unknown activists placed the banner on the Krymsky (Crimean) Bridge over the Moskva River.

Sentsov, a vocal opponent of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, was sentenced in 2015 for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, charges he and human rights groups say were politically motivated.

The 42-year-old is held in a penal colony in the city of Labytnangi in Russia's northern region of Yamalo-Nenets, where he has been on a hunger strike since mid-May to demand that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners.

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.

With reporting by AFP