Monday, June 4, 2018

UCCA Calls on U.S. Leaders to Demand the Immediate Release of Oleh Sentsov

The following statement was submitted by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA).

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the largest grassroots representation of Americans of Ukrainian descent, has sent an urgent letter of appeal to President Trump and Congressional leaders. The letter implores the United States to “take the lead in promoting international norms” and demand the immediate release of Ukrainian activist Oleh Sentsov and the over sixty other political prisoners currently imprisoned by Russia.

Millions of Ukrainians around the world have united to give voice to those facing brutal repression in the areas of Ukraine currently illegally occupied by Russian forces – an occupation that has not only manifested itself in imprisonment, but in the all too common “disappearance” of those deemed to be "trouble-makers."

Russia currently imprisons over 60 Ukrainians abducted illegally from their homeland, including the award-winning filmmaker Oleh Sentsov. A native of Crimea, Sentsov is serving a 20-year prison sentence at a strict penal colony in the Siberian region of Yakutia following a 2015 show trial reminiscent of the Stalin-era. Beginning with his arrest in May 2014 soon after Russia illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula, Russia has illegally imprisoned dozens of Ukrainian citizens in occupied areas of Ukraine and Russia, including Oleksandr Kolchenko, Stanislav Klikh, Oleksiy Chyrnyi, Roman Sushchenko, and many, many others.

As stated in UCCA’s letter to the President, Speaker Ryan, and Leaders McConnell, Schumer and Pelosi, Sentsov has recently declared a courageous hunger strike to protest Russia’s violations of internationally recognized human rights. In a letter provided to his to his lawyer, Sentsov stated that “the only condition for ending [the hunger strike] is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held by Russia.”

UCCA calls for the United States to support these imprisoned Ukrainians by utilizing the Magnitsky Act and CAATSA, as passed by Congress in December 2012 and July 2017, respectively, and implement additional sanctions against Russian officials.

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