The United States, France, Britain, and 35 other countries have asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to raise the case of jailed film director Oleh Sentsov and dozens of other Ukrainian prisoners during his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.
A letter making the request was delivered to Guterres on June 15 by Ukraine's mission to the United Nations. The UN chief is scheduled to hold talks with Putin on June 20 and attend a Portugal-Morocco match during the World Cup that Russia is hosting.
The letter comes as a Ukrainian ombudswoman said she was prevented from meeting with Sentsov on June 15 in the penal colony in Russia's far-northern Yamalo-Nenets region where he is being held.
In their letter, the 38 countries wrote that the case of Sentsov, who has been on a hunger strike since May 14, poses a "matter of urgency" and said Guterres should try to mediate a solution.
"The UN's engagement on these concerns is welcome and we would encourage further steps to address the plight of all those unlawfully detained," the letter said.
Among the signatories were Australia, Canada, and many EU countries, along with Turkey, Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine.
Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko presented Guterres with the letter and a list of dozens of Ukrainian detainees in Russia, including labor unionist Oleksandr Kolchenko, historian Stanislav Klykh, and politician Mykola Karpyuk.
The most high-profile case is that of Sentsov, a 41-year-old filmmaker who is a serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian prison on charges of plotting terrorist attacks. He denies the charges and his supporters say they are politically motivated.
Putin has recently hinted that talks were taking place with Ukraine on a prisoner swap that could take place during the World Cup.