Oleg Sentsov

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Oleg Sentsov
Олег Сенцов
Sakharov Prize 2018 laureate Oleg Sentsov receives his award (49127359156) cropped.jpg
Sentsov in 2019
Born (1976-07-13) 13 July 1976 (age 46)
Simferopol, Crimean Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Alma materKyiv National Economic University
Years active2008–present
Veronika Velch
(m. 2022)

Oleg Gennadyevich Sentsov (Ukrainian: Олег Геннадійович Сенцов, romanizedOleh Hennadiiovych Sentsov,[1][2] Russian: Олег Генадиевич Сенцов; born 13 July 1976) is a Ukrainian filmmaker, writer and activist[3] from Crimea. Sentsov has directed the feature films Gamer (2011), Numbers [uk] (2019, co-directed with Akhtem Seitablayev), and Rhino (2021).

Following the

prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.[7]


Early life and film career

Sentsov was born on 13 July 1976

AutoMaidan and Euromaidan protest movements.[12]

During the 2014 Crimean crisis, he helped deliver food and supplies to Ukrainian military servicemen trapped in their Crimean bases.[4] Sentsov has stated that he does not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea.[13][nb 1]

Trial and imprisonment

Arrest and detention

Sentsov was arrested on 11 May 2014 in Crimea on suspicion of "plotting terrorist acts".[4][13] With Gennady Afanasyev, Alexei Chirniy, and Alexander Kolchenko,[17] he became one of four Ukrainian citizens held by Russia's Federal Security Service, who accused them of seeking to carry out terrorist attacks on bridges, power lines, and public monuments in the Crimean cities of Simferopol, Yalta, and Sevastopol.[4] These charges were punishable with up to 20 years in prison.[4]

After holding Sentsov without charges for three weeks,[18] the Federal Security Service accused the four Ukrainians of being "part of a terrorist community, to carry out explosions with home-made devices on May 9, 2014 near the Eternal Flame memorial and Lenin monument in Simferopol and to set fire to the offices of the Russian Community of Crimea public organization and the United Russia party branch in Simferopol on April 14 and April 18, 2014".[17] The four were also accused of membership in Ukraine's nationalist paramilitary group, Right Sector, a claim that both Sentsov and Right Sector denied.[4][13][17] Russian prosecutors stated that Sentsov confessed to the terrorist plots.[4] Sentsov denied this and stated that he had been beaten and threatened with rape to force his confession.[4][13] According to Sentsov's lawyers, investigators refused to open a case on his allegations of torture, suggesting that his bruises were self-inflicted and that he was keen on sado-masochism.[19]

Starting on 19 May 2014, Sentsov was detained in Moscow's

Lefortovo prison.[4][17] On 7 July 2014, Sentsov's arrest was extended to 11 October.[11] In October 2014, his arrest was again extended to 11 January 2015.[20]

Ukrainian authorities were banned by their Russian counterparts from contacting or helping Sentsov.[21] According to Sentsov, he was deprived of his Ukrainian citizenship.[13]


Sentsov went on trial for terrorism in Russia on 21 July 2015 among international outcry.[22]

The main witness for the prosecution, Afanasyev, retracted his testimony in court on 31 July, saying it was given under duress.[23][24] According to the Afanasyev's lawyer, Afanasyev was tortured, including with electric current.[25] The other main witness, Oleksiy Chirnyi, refused to testify in court.[26]

A Russian court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced Sentsov to 20 years in prison on 25 August.[19][27]


Sentsov initially served his sentence in the

Russian citizen.[29] In September 2017, he was transferred to Russia's northernmost prison, the Labytnangi Penal Colony[30] in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.[31] He declined visits by his family after observing that once the visitors leave other prisoners "fall into terrible deep depression".[28] On 14 May 2018, he went on an open-ended hunger strike protesting the incarceration of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and demanding their release.[32][33][34] After 145 days of the hunger strike,[6] he ended it due to health concerns and the threat of force feeding.[6][35]



According to the Ombudsperson of Ukraine Valeriya Lutkovska, the decision of the Rostov court toward Ukrainians Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko constituted discrimination based on national origin.[36]

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, in a statement on its website, called the trial "a judicial farce".[37]


On 26 June 2014, Russia's Presidential Council for Human Rights appealed to Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin to review the circumstances surrounding the arrests of Sentsov and fellow activist Oleksandr Kolchenko.[4] A reply, posted on the council's website, stated prosecutors found "no grounds" for altering the detention of either suspect.[4]

More than 60 members of the Russian PEN center and several major Russian filmmakers expressed their support, including Nikita Mikhalkov, Andrey Zvyagintsev, and Alexander Sokurov.[37][38][29][34]


political prisoners in Russia.[39]


The European Union and the United States condemned Sentsov's detention and called for his release.[22][40]

The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini stated that "the EU considers the case to be in breach of international law and elementary standards of justice".[41]

Western governments, Amnesty International, and European Film Academy deputy chairman Mike Downey described the proceedings as a show trial.[23][42][43][44] The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe recognized Sentsov as a political prisoner.[45]

The United States called the sentencing a "miscarriage of justice", stating that "Mr. Sentsov and Mr. Kolchenko were targeted by authorities because of their opposition to Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea". Saying that Sentsov and Kolchenko were "taken hostage on Ukrainian territory", it called upon the Russian Federation to "implement the commitments it made in signing the Minsk agreements by immediately releasing Sentsov, Kolchenko, Savchenko, and all other remaining hostages".[46]

The German government's special envoy for human rights and humanitarian affairs said in a statement that he was "shaken" by the severity of the sentences and urged Russia to comply with Council of Europe norms for the humane treatment of prisoners.[37]

European film directors Agnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Pedro Almodóvar co-signed a 10 June 2014 letter by the European Film Academy to Russian authorities, demanding that the charges against Sentsov be dropped and the allegations of torture investigated.[4][12][47] Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf dedicated his acceptance of the 2015 Robert Bresson Prize at the Venice Film Festival to Sentsov, calling the conviction a "major injustice" and the sentence "a move to intimidate all Russian society, especially the intellectuals and artists".[48]

The European Parliament supported a resolution calling for the immediate release of Sentsov and other Ukrainian political prisoners.[49] Before the vote, all major political groups in the European Parliament, when discussing the human rights situation in Russia, called for the release of Sentsov and 158 other political prisoners held in the country. The participants in the debate stressed the need to continue sanctions pressure on the Kremlin, and European leaders and diplomats were urged not to attend the World Cup, which opened 14 June in Russia.[50]


Sejm of Poland adopted a resolution on 15 June 2018 demanding the release of Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia for political reasons. In the resolution deputies demanded, in particular, the release of Sentsov, Kolchenko, and Sushchenko.[51]

Sentsov was granted the title of honorary citizen of Paris on 24 September 2018.[52] Sentsov was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize on 25 October 2018, in a move described by The Guardian as an EU rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin.[6]

In November 2018, the

UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which called for the urgent release of Ukrainian citizens Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, and Emir-Usein Kuku


In August 2019, Sentsov was moved from an Arctic prison to a jail in Moscow amid talks of prisoner swaps.

Volodymyr Zelensky[57] and where Sentsov reunited with his family.[57]

The swap and release of prisoners was welcomed by American,[58] French, and German leaders and leaders of international organizations such as NATO,[59] OSCE,[60] and the European Parliament.[61][62]

Life and career after release

Sentsov's film Nomera (The Numbers) was shown at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival in 2020. The film was produced while Sentsov was still in prison. During this time he corresponded with his co-director Seitablayev.[63]

During the

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sentsov joined the Territorial Defense Forces of Kyiv, which is a part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He called on the international film community to boycott Russian cinema.[64]



Type Year Film
Director Screenwriter Producer Actor/Role Notes
Feature film
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Red XN
In Russian
Documentary[65] 2017 The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov
Red XN
Red XN
Red XN
In Russian, Ukrainian, and English; directed by Askold Kurov
Feature film 2019 Numbers [uk]
Green tickY
Green tickY
Red XN
Red XN
Co-directed with Akhtem Seitablayev
Feature film 2021[66][67] Rhino
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Red XN
Nominated at the
78th Venice Film Festival in the Orizzonti section[68][2]


Non-fiction prose
Fiction plays
  • Номера (Numbers) — playwright.[71][72]


Sentsov has three children.[73][28][74] On July 5, 2022, he married Veronika Velch, the senior director at Ridgely Walsh and an activist of Euromaidan SOS.[75][76]


  • Order for Courage, first class (24 September 2015) – for personal courage and dedication shown in defending the constitutional rights and freedoms of man, the integrity of the Ukrainian state[77]
  • Taras Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine 2016 for Gamer and Rhino (presented in person in 2019)[78]
  • The Sakharov Award for Courage[79][80]
  • European Memory and Conscience Platform Award (14 November 2018)[81]
  • Serhiy Magnitsky International Prize for Investigative Journalism and Human Rights in the World (16 November 2018; presented in person on 14 November 2019)[82]
  • Pro Dignitate Humana Award (23 October 2018)[83]
  • Neptune Award of the Solidarity of Arts Festival in Gdańsk (23 August 2019)[84]
  • Stanisław Vincenz City Award in Kraków (2020)[85]

See also


  1. federal subject of Russia and Sevastopol to be one of Russia's three federal cities.[14][15][16]


  1. ^ Oleh Sentsov Talks Getting His Life Back After Release From Russian Prison & Making "Wild" 90s Ukraine Story 'Rhino' – Venice. deadline.com. 27 August 2021
  2. ^ a b Nosorih (Rhino). labiennale.org/en/. 2021
  3. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (25 October 2018). "Rights Prize Goes to Oleg Sentsov, a Russian Prisoner, in a Rebuke to Putin". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ukrainian Filmmaker Remains Behind Bars Despite Growing Support, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (26 June 2014)
  5. ^ Walker, Shaun (25 August 2015). "Russian court jails Ukrainian film-maker for 20 years over terror offences". theguardian.com.
  6. ^ a b c d "EU rebukes Putin with human rights prize to jailed Ukrainian film-maker". The Guardian. 25 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b Lapin, Denis; Pavlova, Olga; Britton, Bianca; Dean, Sarah (7 September 2019). "Film director Oleg Sentsov and MH17 suspect among those freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap". CNN. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  8. UNIAN
    (13 July 2018)
  9. ^ a b c "Oleg Sentsov". International Film Festival Rotterdam. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Almodovar, Leigh petition Putin on jailed Ukrainian Oleg Sentsov". Los Angeles Times. 10 June 2014.
  11. ^
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  12. ^ a b Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and others call for release of Ukrainian director, The Guardian (10 June 2014)
  13. ^
    Ukrayinska Pravda
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  14. ^ Gutterman, Steve (18 March 2014). "Putin signs Crimea treaty, will not seize other Ukraine regions". Reuters.com. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  15. ^ "Ukraine crisis: Timeline". bbc.co.uk. 13 November 2014.
  16. ^ UN General Assembly adopts resolution affirming Ukraine's territorial integrity Archived 4 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine, China Central Television (28 March 2014)
  17. ^ a b c d "Ukrainian film director Sentsov to remain in custody – Moscow City Court". Interfax-Ukraine. 8 August 2014. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014.
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  21. Ukrayinska Pravda
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  22. ^ a b Luhn, Alec (21 July 2015). "Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov goes on trial for terrorism in Russia". Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
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  24. ^ "Процесс Сенцова. Допрос Афанасьева". МедиаЗона. 31 July 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  25. ^ Convicted in the case about "Crimean terrorists" Afanasyev has told about tortures after his detention and pressure after his refusal to testify in court (Осужденный по делу «крымских террористов» Афанасьев рассказал о пытках после задержания и давлении после отказа от показаний в суде). Mediazona. 5 August 2015
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  28. ^ a b c Letter from Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov smuggled out of prison, The Guardian (12 September 2016)
  29. ^
    (2 December 2016)
  30. ^ ФКУ ИК-8 УФСИН России по Ямало-Ненецкому автономному округу http://www.89.fsin.su/structural_units/ik8.php
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  32. ^ Grater, Tom (25 August 2018). "Oleg Sentsov 12 days into hunger strike". Screen Daily. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  33. ^ "Вместе и до конца": режиссер Сенцов, осужденный в России на 20 лет колонии, объявил голодовку, требуя освободить 64 украинца (in Russian). Newsru. 16 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
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  35. ^ Oliver Carroll. Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov ends 145-day hunger strike in Russian jail at The Independent, 5 October 2018
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  37. ^
    ISSN 0362-4331
    . Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  38. ^ "Ukraine film director Sentsov in 'terror' trial in Russia". BBC News. 21 July 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  39. ^ ""Мемориал" считает Олега Сенцова и Александра Кольченко политзаключенными". www.memo.ru. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  40. Interfax Ukraine
  41. ^ "European Union – EEAS (European External Action Service) | Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini on the sentencing by a Russian court of Ukrainian citizens O. Sentsov and O. Kolchenko". eeas.europa.eu. 25 August 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  42. ^ "Controversial Trial of Ukrainian Filmmaker Closes in Russia". The Telegraph. 19 August 2015.
  43. ^ Ovcharuk, Bogdan (10 August 2015). "'The System Does Not Forgive' – Crimean Activists Hauled before a Russian Military Court". Amnesty International. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  44. ^ "Russian Federation: Drop terror charges against Ukrainian activists: Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko". www.amnesty.org. 30 July 2015. EUR 46/2202/2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  45. ^ "Political Prisoners in Russia". CSCE. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  46. ^ "Sentencing of Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  47. ^ "European Film Academy: Help Us to Help Oleg Sentsov !". www.europeanfilmacademy.org. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  48. ^ "Mohsen Makhmalbaf voices support for imprisoned fellow director Oleg Sentsov". The Guardian. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  49. ^ "European Parliament Urges Russia To Release Sentsov, 'Political Prisoners'". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. 14 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  50. ^ "European Parliament to call for release of political prisoners". Greens/EFA. 13 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  51. ^ Roś, Edyta. "Sejm podjął uchwałę ws. uwolnienia obywateli Ukrainy więzionych z przyczyn politycznych". gazetaprawna.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  52. ^ "Sentsov becomes honorary citizen of Paris". Interfax-Ukraine. 24 September 2018.
  53. ^ "Jailed Ukrainian filmmaker brought to Moscow amid prisoner swap..." Reuters. 29 August 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  54. ^ Gershkovich, Evan (7 September 2019). "Signaling Readiness for Thaw, Russia and Ukraine Swap Prisoners". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  55. ^ "Reuters: Sentsov, 24 Ukrainian sailors in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap | KyivPost – Ukraine's Global Voice". KyivPost. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  56. ^ "Filmmaker Sentsov, 24 Ukrainian sailors in Russia-Ukraine prisoner..." Reuters. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  57. ^ a b "President: Together with all Ukraine we will return not only people, but also our territories". Official website of the President of Ukraine. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  58. ^ "Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners in bid to ease tension between the two nations". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  59. ^ NATO (7 September 2019). "Statement by NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu". NATO. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  60. . OSCE – Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
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  62. ^ Englund, Will (7 September 2019). "Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners in bid to ease tension between the two nations". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  63. ^ Mund, Heike (19 February 2020). "Oleg Sentsov's new film premieres in Berlin ahead of film festival". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  64. ^ Welk, Brian (3 March 2022). "Ukrainian Filmmaker Fighting on Front Lines Calls for Russian Cinema Boycott". TheWrap. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  65. ^ «Процесс» — документальный фильм о суде над Олегом Сенцовым. Смотрите полностью на «Медузе» Meduza, 05.2018
  66. ^ Saakaov, R. "The Sentsov's film in Moscow and the fate of Crimean dissenting (Фильм Сенцова в Москве и судьба крымских «несогласных»)" BBC (Russian service), 30 October 2014
  67. ^ Nicholas Bell Top 100 Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2021: #68. Oleg Sentsov’s Rhinoceros, IONCINEMA.com, 4 January 2021
  68. ^ Orizzonti 2021. labiennale.org/en/. 2021
  69. ^ Олег Сенцов. (11 June 2014). "Купите книгу – она смешная". Литературный журнал «Процесс». Archived from the original on 8 April 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  70. .
  71. ^ "В Киеве пройдет читка пьесы Олега Сенцова". colta.ru. 12 March 2015.
  72. ^ "В Киеве провели благотворительное чтение пьесы Олега Сенцова". Крым. Реалии. 19 March 2015.
  73. ^ Sergatskova, Ye. Oleg Sentsov, a victim of terrorist action (Олег Сенцов, жертва теракта). Colta. 16 May 2014
  74. ^ У Сенцова народилася донька (in Ukrainian). Ukrinform. 5 February 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  75. ^ Режисер Олег Сенцов одружився. Хто обраниця режисера? (Фото) (in Ukrainian). Segodnya. 5 July 2022. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  76. ^ "Veronika Velch - Ridgely|Walsh". Ridgely|Walsh. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  77. ^ "Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України". Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  78. ^ "Sentsov got his National T. Shevchenko Prize, awarded in 2016". imi.org.ua. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  79. ^ "Oleg Sentsov and two other Kremlin hostages receive Sakharov Award for Courage".
  80. ^ "Imprisoned Ukrainian Film Director Oleh Sentsov Wins Sakharov Prize". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  81. ^ "Oleg Sentsov was awarded with the Platform of European Memory and Conscience Prize". Національний музей Голодомору-геноциду. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  82. ^ "Imprisoned Ukrainian Director Oleg Sentsov Awarded Human Rights Prize | Hollywood Reporter". www.hollywoodreporter.com. 16 November 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  83. ^ "У Польщі Сенцову присудили нагороду Pro Dignitate Humana". Радіо Свобода (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  84. ^ "Opinion | Sentsov received Neptune Prize at the Solidarity of Arts festival in Poland". Opinion. 24 August 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  85. ^ "Oleg Sencow laureatem nagrody im. Stanisława Vincenza".

External links