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Russian Newspaper Publishes New Year's Messages From Jailed Activists

Jailed Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov says he is not "going to give in." 

Imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, a Crimean native who opposed Russia's 2014 takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula, has written in a letter to the Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta newspaper that he is not "going to give in."

"I do not expect good news [in 2019].... But it does not mean that I am going to give in, be disappointed, or regret anything," Sentsov wrote in a letter published on December 28.

Ahead of the New Year, Novaya Gazeta published letters penned by several people who were either sentenced, are facing trial, or are under investigation in high-profile cases in Russia that many call politically motivated.

Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of terrorism in a trial criticized by human rights groups and Western governments as politically motivated.

Oyub Titiyev, an activist who is on trial in his native Chechnya, called on people imprisoned on "fabricated" charges, not to give up in their fight for freedom.

"Our being behind bars now is not the end.... We will all continue to fight. I wish you all not to stop fighting, to struggle to the end, until we are released. And more importantly, I wish you all to leave this place healthy and strong so that you can continue to work further and help society," the leader of the Moscow-based Memorial human rights group's branch in Chechnya wrote.

The former director of Moscow's Gogol Center, Aleksei Malobrodsky, expressed gratitude to "all citizens" for their support as he and three co-defendants face trial for alleged embezzlement in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

"I regained an almost lost hope that there are so many good people around me and that all of us have a chance to become a society," Malobrodsky wrote, adding that he wished for a fair trial for his friends and himself.

The case against Malobrodsky and his co-defendants, including film director Kirill Serebrennikov, prompted accusations that the Russian authorities were targeting cultural figures who are at odds with President Vladimir Putin's government.

Novaya Gazeta also published letters by three members of the so-called New Greatness movement: Ruslan Kostylenkov, who is in pretrial detention, and teenagers Maria Dubovik and Anna Pavlikova, who are under house arrest.

"I don't have high hopes for a successful outcome of my case, but as long as I am alive and well, I will continue to resist in the courtroom," Kostylenkov wrote.

The trio were arrested in March along with seven other members of New Greatness. Six are being held in pretrial detention while four are under house arrest.

Those charged say they had turned their online chat criticizing the government into a political movement after the move was proposed by one of their members.

Later, it was revealed that the man who proposed the idea, wrote the movement's charter, and rented premises for the movement's gatherings was a special agent of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Another letter published by Novaya Gazeta was penned by former correspondent Ali Feruz, who moved to Germany in February after being denied political asylum in Russia.

An Uzbek national, Feruz was held in a Russian immigration detention center for six months and feared he could be tortured if deported to Uzbekistan.

"Liberty is the best gift!" Feruz wrote, adding that he wished for all political prisoners in Russia to be released soon.

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