Ukrainian political prisoners: can Canada put more pressure on Russia

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#FreeSentsov on Downing Street, London, UK, on June 2, 2018 (Flickr/Steve Eason)

Will Russia consider Canada’s opinion on the issue?

During a meeting between Canada’s Liberal MP Arif Virani and Ukraine’s Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova on August 22, 2018, in Kiev, the Ukrainian side called for Canada’s help with Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia.

In the course of his first visit to Ukraine, Arif Virani met with Ukraine’s Ombudsman “to discuss protecting human rights and to reaffirm Canada’s support in the campaign to free jailed activist #OlegSentsov,” as stated in his tweet. According to Liudmyla Denisova’s Facebook page, she briefed the Canadian MP on Sentsov’s state of health and Ukraine’s proposal to Moscow to exchange 22 Russian citizens convicted of or detained for crimes against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine for more than 60 Ukrainians held in Russian prisons. She also used this opportunity to ask Canada to constantly remind the Russian President Vladimir Putin that all these people must be sent back home. Among the specific measures of such a reminder, the Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights specified that Canada could impose additional sanctions against Putin’s inner circle.

Oleg Sentsov, arrested in Crimea on May 11, 2014, was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Russia. On May 14, 2018, Sentsov went on a hunger strike, urging the Russian government to release 64 Ukrainian political prisoners. On July 28, 2018, Global Affairs Canada issued a statement calling on Russia to free “all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens, including Oleg Sentsov.” On August 21, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, by means of her Twitter, expressed Canada’s concern with Sentsov’s condition, since he “has been on a hunger strike for 100 days,” and repeated Canada’s call on Russia.

Related story: Terrorist’s fate in Russia and Canadian role in the #FreeSentsov campaign

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