Russia Charges Ukrainian Director With Planning Terrorist Attacks

Poster calling for Oleg Senstov's release, published by Ukrainian filmmakers during Cannes
Poster calling for Oleg Senstov's release, published by Ukrainian filmmakers during Cannes
 Courtesy of Ukrainian FIlmmakers Association

Russian security services Friday charged a Ukrainian film director arrested earlier this month in Crimea with planning terrorist attacks in the territory, which was annexed by Moscow in March.

Oleg Sentsov, whose current project, Rhino, has secured financial backing from German regional funding body Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, is also accused of being a member of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), a right-wing political group that was prominent in Ukraine's winter revolution known as EuroMaidan.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) -- a successor body to the Soviet-era KGB -- say Right Sector is a neofascist and terrorist organization.

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In charges made public Friday, the FSB say that Sentsov and others planned to blow up power lines, railway bridges, the offices of Russian political parties and public monuments, including a statue of Lenin and a wartime commemorative "eternal flame" in the Crimean cities of Simferopol, Yalta and Sevastopol.

The FSB says that in searches of Sentsov's home and those of three co-conspirators "explosives, firearms, ammunition, incendiary canisters, construction helmets (such as those used on the Maidan), gas masks and nationalist paraphernalia" were recovered.

In an official statement posted on its website, the FSB added: "The suspects have confessed [to membership in] Right Sector [and to organizing] terrorist acts on the territory of Crimea with the aim of destabilizing the social and political situation on the peninsula."

A native of Crimea and a single father of two, Sentsov did not hide his opposition to the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula by Russian forces in March.

Nothing has been heard from Sentsov since his arrest and removal to Moscow, where he is being held in the Russian capital's 19th century Lefortovo prison. Sentsov is being represented in Moscow by Dmitry Denze, a lawyer who helped defend Pussy Riot two years ago. If convicted, Sentsov faces a minimum jail term of 10 years.

Ukraine's foreign ministry is demanding that Russian authorities allow its officials access to Sentsov and other Ukrainian citizens arrested and taken to Moscow. Ukraine's consul in Russia has complained that he was denied a meeting with Sentsov.

Ukrainian filmmakers says that although Sentsov was involved in the events around Maidan Square in Kiev during the winter, they don't believe he is a terrorist. Some Russian filmmakers have also expressed solidarity with Sentsov. Kinosoyuz, an alternative filmmakers union that broke away from the official union several years ago, demanded the immediate release of Sentsov and began collecting money to support him.

European directors including Agnieszka Holland, chair of the European Film Academy, and Wim Wenders have rallied to Sentsov's support. Last week Wenders, speaking in the German city of Aachen at an awards ceremony, demanded the "immediate release" of the director

Meanwhile, Right Sector denied the director's membership in the organization. Right Sector's spokesman Artem Skoropadsky was quoted by the online newspaper Gazeta.ru as saying that Sentsov had nothing to do with the group.

The Russian TV station Channel Five reported that the other three people detained in connection with alleged preparation for a terrorist attack confessed and pointed to Sentsov as their leader.

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