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Council Of Europe Calls On Russia To Free Ukrainian Filmmaker Sentsov

Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe (file photo)

The chief of Europe's top human rights body is urging Russia to release imprisoned Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who is currently on hunger strike while serving a 20-year sentence.

Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, on June 20 told Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova that Sentsov "should be released on humanitarian grounds," the Interfax news agency reported after their meeting in Moscow.

"If there is a need for a request for pardoning him, I would gladly do it on the basis of the European Convention of Human Rights," Jagland added.

On June 18, a dozen leading names in the Russian arts, including Andrei Zvyagintsev and fellow filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov, called for President Vladimir Putin to pardon Sentsov.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Sentsov would have to ask for the pardon himself before it could be considered.

Sentsov, a vocal opponent of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, was sentenced in 2015 to 20 years for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts.

A native of Crimea, he and human rights groups say the charges were politically motivated. On May 14, he began a hunger strike, demanding the release of 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners.

The United States on June 18 called on Russia to release dozens of people it says have been identified by rights groups as political prisoners, including Sentsov.

Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted Moskalkova as saying that Sentsov was "receiving nutrition from a drip filled with all the vitamins twice a day" and that he had not lost weight.

Separately, Sentsov's lawyers said the European Court of Human Rights had called on Sentsov to end his hunger strike and for Russia to provide details by June 27 about his condition and how his rights are being ensured.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Interfax
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