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Sentsov Losing Hope For 'Happy Ending' To Russian Prison Ordeal


Demonstrators attend a protest rally demanding the release of Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov in front of the Russian Embassy in Prague in August.
Demonstrators attend a protest rally demanding the release of Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov in front of the Russian Embassy in Prague in August.

Jailed Crimean film director Oleh Sentsov says that his "limbs are going numb" nearly four months into a hunger strike and that he no longer believes his ordeal in a Russian prison will have a "happy ending," his cousin says.

"There's a fog in my head. Everything is spinning, my body, my head, and my limbs are going numb," Natalya Kaplan -- in a Facebook post on September 11 -- quoted Sentsov as saying in a letter he sent her from prison.

"I have not given up, in any case. It's just that I don't believe in a happy ending to this whole story," she quoted him as saying.

Sentsov, a Crimean native who opposed Russia's 2014 takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula, is serving a 20-year prison term after being convicted of terrorism in a trial that he, human rights groups, and Western governments contend was politically motivated.

Imprisoned in the far northern Yamalo-Nenets region of Russia, Sentsov started a hunger strike on May 14, demanding that Russia release 64 fellow Ukrainians he considers political prisoners.

"My condition is about the same: stably lousy," he wrote, according to Kaplan. "To all the old special effects, hypoxia -- a shortage of oxygen in the organs, mainly the heart and brain -- has been added.... My circulatory system is not handling the job of supplying oxygen to the organism."

"I no longer believe that I will soon walk free and that we will all live happily in Kyiv,” he wrote.

According to Human Rights Watch, which cited a lawyer for Sentsov, he agreed to begin taking an oral nutritional supplement at some point in the past two months, after suffering his first health crisis.

The lawyer said he agreed to take the supplement -- normally given to people who are unconscious or cannot swallow food -- only under the threat of force-feeding, and that he takes only enough to keep him alive.

The plight of Sentsov, 42, has drawn expressions of support from artists around the world and calls from Western governments for his release.

In August, the Kremlin rejected a plea by Sentsov’s mother for a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and nothing has come of frequent talk of a potential prisoner exchange that would send him home to Ukraine.

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