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Ukrainian Ombudswoman Not Allowed To Meet Jailed Sentsov


Ukrainian ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova (right) meets with Russian ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova in Moscow on June 18.
Ukrainian ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova (right) meets with Russian ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova in Moscow on June 18.

Ukrainian ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova says she was not allowed to meet with jailed Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov.

Denisova wrote on Facebook on June 28 that she flew to Russia's far-northern region of Yamalo-Nenets, with her Russian counterpart, Tatyana Moskalkova, aboard one plane, but Moskalkova later took a separate route to reach the village of Labytnangi, where Sentsov is serving his prison term.

Hours later, Denisova wrote on Facebook that she was not allowed to enter the penal colony, but Moskalkova and her associates were allowed access into the penitentiary’s territory in four SUVs.

Moskalkova's "motorcade passed me, although she clearly saw me. Such demonstrative behavior poses one question -- how is she going to implement agreements reached by two presidents [Russian and Ukrainian], nothing to say about guarantees given to me by the Russian president that I can freely and without any obstacles meet with all Ukrainian political prisoners [kept in Russia]," Denisova wrote.

Meanwhile, Moskalkova said after visiting the penal colony that she talked to Sentsov for about an hour, adding that his state of health was "satisfactory."

"Sentsov is in a good emotional form; he walks, monitors the world's events, watches TV, news and football, writes a script for a new movie," Moskalkova said, "But some concerns over his situation remain as it is the 46th day of his hunger strike."

Denisova later said she has "no trust" in what Moskalkova says, adding that she could be certain about Sentsov’s well-being only after she has a chance to personally see him.

"I cannot call her an ombudswoman.... She does not pick up her phone and does not answer any of my calls," she said.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maryana Betsa criticized Russia for playing "political games."

"The price of those political games is human lives. We demand to secure Denisova's immediate access to all Ukrainian political prisoners [in Russia]," Betsa wrote on Twitter.

On June 15, Denisova was for the first time refused access to Sentsov despite a previously reached agreement.

Crimea native Sentsov, 41, is serving a 20-year prison term in Russia after being convicted on terrorism charges that he and human rights groups say were politically motivated.

He has been on hunger strike since May 14, demanding the release of 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners.

Western governments and rights organizations have called for Sentsov to be released, and the Russian human rights group Memorial considers him to be a political prisoner.

Several groups have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon Sentsov, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the Ukrainian film director would have to ask for the pardon himself before it could be considered.

Sentsov's lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, said on June 22 that Sentsov would not submit a request for a pardon as he considered himself innocent.

With reporting by TASS, UNIAN, 112 Ukraiyina, and Interfax
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