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Jailed Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov in his cell on August 9, 2018.

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) has denied the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, on hunger strike in a Russian prison for nearly three months, has lost 30 kilograms.

In a statement quoted by the TASS news agency on August 11, the FSIN said "As of today he is not seen to be underweight and a worsening in his state of health is not observed."

The statement comes a day after French President Emmanuel Macron raised the plight of Sentsov during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin promised "to respond and quickly release details on Sentsov's health," the French presidency said.

On August 10, the European Union urged Russian authorities to move Sentsov to a medical facility and give him appropriate medical care.

Sentsov's lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, said on August 10 that Sentsov is "ready to die" and after visiting him on August 7 told AFP that he had lost 30 kilograms.

In its August 11 statement, the FSIN specifically referred to the 30-kilogram weight-loss figure, claiming "this information does not correspond to reality."

The service said it "is taking all the necessary measures" to maintain Sentsov's state of health and that he does not require emergency hospitalization.

A vocal opponent of Russia's 2014 takeover of Crimea, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted by a Russian court in 2015 of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, charges he and human rights groups say were politically motivated.

Sentsov, 42, is being held in a penal colony in the city of Labytnangi in Russia's northern region of Yamalo-Nenets, where he has been on hunger strike since mid-May demanding that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners.

He has vowed to continue his protest to the end.

Macron has already brought up Sentsov's case several times with Putin, including during a visit to St. Petersburg in May.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogehrini, said in a statement that the 28-member bloc expects Russia "to provide him with appropriate treatment in an institutionalized medical setting."

"The European Union expects international human rights standards on the [Crimean] peninsula to be upheld and all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and on the Crimean Peninsula to be released without delay," the EU statement said.

Sentsov is being currently sustained with water and a drip with glucose and vitamins. Besides losing 30 kilograms, Dinze also said earlier this week that his client's heart rate has slowed and his red blood cell levels were very low.

A cousin of Sentsov said on August 8 that the filmmaker is in a "catastrophically bad" state and could be close to death.

Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said on August 9 that "rapid actions" are needed to save Sentsov's life.

Several governments and prominent figures have called on Putin to pardon Sentsov, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the inmate would have to ask for a pardon himself before it could be considered.

Sentsov has said he would not ask for a pardon because he has not committed a crime.

With reporting by AFP and Interfax
Russian activist Maria Alyokhina (file photo)

A member of the Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot managed to travel from Moscow to Britain, defying what the group said was an order prohibiting her from leaving the country.

Maria Alyokhina "has found a way to escape" despite an "official ban" on leaving Russia, an August 9 post on a Pussy Riot account on Twitter said.

It said she was flying to Edinburgh, Scotland, where the group planned to take part in the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival from August 10 to August 19.

A day earlier, Alyokhina's colleague Pyotr Verzilov tweeted that she was stopped by border guards while trying to fly from Moscow to Britain and officially informed that she was barred from leaving the country.

The reason given was that she had refused to serve a community-service sentence for a previous protest against the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is in charge of Russia's border guards.

Alyokhina told the Guardian newspaper that she drove more than 1,000 kilometers through Belarus and entered European Union member state Lithuania, where she boarded a flight for Britain.

“It was nothing extraordinary,” she told the Guardian.

Belarus and Russia have close ties and border security is relatively loose.

On August 7, Alyokhina and two other activists staged a protest in front of the headquarters of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) in Moscow.

The activists hung a red poster on the building bearing "FSIN = GULAG," as well as several photos of men in prison uniforms who appeared to have been beaten. Each photo had penitentiary numbers and locations.

The action was meant to protest against what activists called the beating and torture of inmates by prison guards across Russia.

Alyokhina and two other members of Pussy Riot came to prominence after they were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for a stunt in which they burst into Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral and sang a "punk prayer" against Vladimir Putin, who was prime minister and campaigning for his return to the presidency at the time.

Alyokhina and bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were close to the end of their two-year prison sentences when they were freed in December 2013, under an amnesty they dismissed as a propaganda stunt to improve Putin's image ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

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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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