The Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov has become the first European Sakharov Prize Laureate in ten years, since Memorial in 2009, and the first Laureate from Ukraine. The EPP Group nominated him for his peaceful protest against the Russian occupation of Crimea and his quest to release all Ukrainian political prisoners held illegally in Russia.

“Many people are still fighting against authoritarian regimes worldwide by defending human rights and the right to express what they think, as it is not allowed everywhere. Oleg Sentsov’s case is similar to Sakharov’s fate: he was accused of something he didn’t do and sentenced to 20 years in prison. By supporting Oleg Sentsov we are staying true to our own convictions of universal principles of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of thought”, said Eduard Kukan MEP, who, jointly with Michael Gahler MEP, proposed the candidacy of Oleg Sentsov for this year’s Sakharov Prize.

“Oleg Sentsov is an innocent man. By continuing his hunger strike for 145 days without asking for his own release but for that of others, he has become a powerful symbol of the Ukrainian citizens illegally arrested and convicted by the Russian occupation forces in the Crimean peninsula after its annexation. This award also represents other innocent individuals perishing in inhumane conditions in Russian jails scattered around the vast country. We demand that Oleg Sentsov and all other Ukrainian political prisoners are immediately and unconditionally released”, said Gahler.

“Oleg Sentsov deserves the Sakharov Prize. He is a freedom fighter prepared to sacrifice his life. With his hunger strike, he wanted the world to hear his voice telling us that more than 70 Ukrainians are illegally detained in Russia’s prisons. By awarding him the Sakharov Prize, we are saying: Yes! We heard you Oleg Sentsov”, concluded Sandra Kalniete MEP, Vice-Chairwoman of the EPP Group responsible for Foreign Affairs.

NOTE TO EDITORS

The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 218 Members from 28 Member States

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