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Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov in court in Rostov-on-Don in August 2015

The lawyer for Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year prison term in Russia and has been on a hunger strike for nearly two months, says the health risks for his client are rising as the protest enters its 75th day.

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

Sentsov is serving his term in Russia's northern region of Yamalo-Nenets after being convicted on terrorism charges that he and human rights groups say were politically motivated.

The 42-year-old denies the charges and has been on a hunger strike since mid-May, demanding that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners.

Sentsov's lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, told the Associated Press on July 27 that Sentsov is pale and lies down constantly because he has difficulty moving.

Dinze said "the hunger strike is continuing and with each day the risk is increasing."

The European Court of Human Rights this week urged Sentsov to end his hunger strike.

Sentsov's mother earlier this month sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to pardon her son.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on July 13 that the letter from Sentsov's mother "will certainly be looked into," but did not comment on whether Putin might heed her request.

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

Sentsov has refused to request a presidential pardon because he considers himself innocent.

Based on reporting by AP, Ekho Moskvy, and Interfax
Sergei Yefremov, one of the six prison guards arrested in Yaroslavl on abuse charges.

Russian federal authorities are cracking down against prison guards and local police in a series of abuse cases after video emerged on social media showing guards torturing a prison inmate in the city of Yaroslavl, northwest of Moscow.

The arrests and trials, which are not directly connected to the Yaroslavl video, appear to be part of a campaign by federal authorities to respond to public outrage over the prison-torture footage.

In Russia's North Caucasus region of Ingushetia on July 27, seven police were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years on charges of torturing 13 criminal suspects at a police post.

Meanwhile, a court in Siberia on July 27 sentenced one police officer to seven years and another to six years after convicting them of using electric shocks to torture three handcuffed suspects during an interrogation.

The court found the police also forced the suspects to wear gas masks and deprived them of oxygen during the 2015 interrogation into the case of a stolen sack of wheat in the Altai Krai region.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said the two police, whose names were not disclosed, abused their powers.

The sentences come in the wake of a scandal over a video showing at least 17 guards severely beating an inmate at a prison in Yaroslavl.

On July 25 and 26, a court in Yaroslavl ordered the arrest of six prison guards at the city’s Corrective Colony No. 1 for alleged involvement in the torture of inmate Yevgeny Makarov.

A scene of alleged torture being carried out in a Yaroslavl prison.
A scene of alleged torture being carried out in a Yaroslavl prison.

Video of the abuse of Makarov was published online last week by Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper and circulated widely on social media networks and by other websites.

In another case, Russia’s Investigative Committee said on July 25 that a prison guard in the western region of Bryansk had been charged with murdering an unidentified inmate and abuse of power. The name of the accused prison guard was not released.

In a statement, the Investigative Committee said the inmate died of asphyxiation on July 22 after the guard "bound” his face with a cloth.

Police in Russia’s western city of Voronezh confirmed on July 26 that they have launched an internal investigation into complaints by two students who allege they were tortured by police in May in an attempt to force a confession about a stolen mobile phone.

A former inmate in the Irkutsk region in Siberia, Ivan Bochkov, told RFE/RL on July 27 that he filed an official complaint with the prosecutor's office over what he says was torture by local police in 2014.

A penal colony in the northwestern region of Arkhangelsk announced an internal investigation on July 27 into claims by opposition activist Sergei Mokhnatkin that he was severely beaten by prison guards.

The 64-year-old Mokhnatkin had been sentenced in 2014 to 4 1/2 years in prison after being convicted of assaulting two police officers during a December 2013 antigovernment protest in Moscow.

Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service on July 24 announced that it will investigate all complaints from 2017 of violence by authorities at prisons across Russia.

United Nations human rights experts have urged Russian authorities to prosecute cases of torture in prisons and labor camps -- including beatings, electric shocks, and suffocation.

With reporting by Mediazona, Interfax, and TASS

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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