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Dear Friends, dear Members,
It’s with very good news that we resume our weekly meeting with the Gazette. Oleg Sentsov along with 34 other Ukrainians were liberated during a big exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia on Saturday, September 7th.
It took five long years for Vladimir Putin to finally liberate the Ukrainian filmmaker. Kidnapped and tortured in his native Crimea, Oleg saw himself naturalized Russian by force and condemned for terrorism to 20 years of imprisonment in the penitential colony of Labytnangui. Five years later, he has returned to Ukraine, to Kiev, to continue the battle and plead the cause to liberate numerous other Ukrainian and Crimean political prisoners, serving their sentences in Russian prisons.
“What are your plans for the future? - The plan is to do what gives the most pleasure to everyone, to film and live.”
Alone in the past against the all-powerful State machine, Oleg received messages of support from across the globe. Thanks to an international mobilization, and to the joint efforts of various groups (particularly PEN America, the Société des réalisateurs de films et the Nouveaux Dissidents), he finally rejoined his family after a long incarceration. On September 10th, Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Koltchenko gave their first press conference, which we saw. The dialogue with the 200 accredited journalists was joyous and awkward at the same time, as if the media had been surprised by the unexpected outcome and found themselves short of pertinent questions facing the two former political prisoners, now a symbol of the citizens’ resistance to the annexation of Crimea.
Oleg Sentsov thanked everyone for the support, and the letters and postcards that he managed to receive in prison. He read each of them and carefully took them with him to the Ukraine! Despite his long hunger strike, these encouraging words boosted his hope of returning to his country and reuniting with those close to him.
On September 18th, he gave his first big interview to the Ukrainian television station, ‘Hromadske’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-AZ8fd0coc - in Russian). On this occasion, the weakness of the questions was still astonishing, with Oleg Sentsov even expressing at one point disbelief and perhaps impatience. Since then, he shares his news on one official page of Facebook. From this time forward, he is free — in his choices, his plans and his decisions. “These last years, I have done very little for the cinema and I have the intention of catching up,” he has written.
But we are waiting for him to come to Europe, particularly to Paris, as quickly as possible!
Translated by Sally Gordon-Mark