12:08 Jul. 13, 2016
Activists organize events in central Kyiv to support political prisoner
On July 13 Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, currently imprisoned in Russia, marks his 40th birthday. This is already the third birthday Sentsov spending behind the bars.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko congratulated the Crimean filmmaker, saying that he is making everything possible to bring him back home:
"Today Oleh has turned 40, more than two years of his life he has spent in Russian prison as a hostage of the Kremlin. Oleh, I am grateful that you did not give up. You remain faithful to your principles, you became a symbol of fortitude. Ukraine is doing its best to return you and every political prisoner home," Poroshenko wrote on his Facebook page.
Ordinary Ukrainians will honor Sentsov with a rally on Kyiv's Independence Square.
The Kyiv-based Solidarity Committee, one of the event's organizers, said the rally is intended as a show of support for Sentsov, his co-defendant Oleksandr Kolchenko - who received a 10-year sentence - and other Crimeans it considers political prisoners.
"Our goal is to show them that we are not indifferent to their fate, we want to show that Ukraine doesn't forget its people," Polina Brodik of the Solidarity Committee told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
"It's also a reminder to Russia's law-enforcement organs that these people are not forgotten and that we will fight for their release."
The activist added that at the end of the event the participants will release balloons from cages, as a symbol of the wish to see Ukrainian hostages free.
Hennadiy Afanasyev, a photographer from Crimea who was jailed on similar charges, is scheduled to address the crowd along with Sentsov's cousin and other speakers.
In August 2015, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison in a sham trial that was deplored by many as a "farce". Sentsov was found guilty of creation of a terrorist organisation, planning to carry out terrorist attacks in his native Crimea, illegal possession and attempt to traffic arms.
The filmmaker denies the charges as totally fabricated.