French President Emmanuel Macron to Discuss Jailed Director Oleg Sentsov with Vladimir Putin

Oleg Sentsov - H 2015
AP Images

Oleg Sentsov - H 2015

The Ukrainian director has been on a hunger strike in a Russian prison since May 14, protesting his 20-year sentence on terrorist charges.

French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss the case of jailed Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a telephone conversation later today, Reuters reports, citing a source in Macron's office.

Senstov, in a Russian prison on terrorist charges, has been on a hunger strike since May 14 and is reportedly seriously ill. The European film industry, which protested Senstov's arrest and imprisonment, calling the charges politically motivated, has mounted a campaign to have the director freed.

Earlier this week, a number of prominent Russian cultural figures, including Golden Globe winning and Oscar-nominated director Andrei Zvyaginstev (Loveless, Leviathan) signed an open letter to Macron, calling on him to help organize a visit by the International Committee of the Red Cross to Sentsov. On Thursday, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov also confirmed that the Russian President received letter from Sentsov's mother, in which she asked Putin to pardon her son.

"I am aware that the letter arrived at a relevant division of the president's administration, but I cannot speak about any reaction to it at the moment," Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian state-run news service TASS. "Under the pardoning procedure, a certain set of actions has to be carried out, according to the law," he added.

Sentsov is calling for not only his release but for the release of all other Ukrainians political prisoners jailed in Russia.

The director was seized by Russian security forces after Moscow forcibly annexed Crimea in 2014. He was accused of a terrorist plot to blow up a statue of Lenin, and of setting fire to the offices of a Kremlin-loyal political party. Sentsov was given a 20-year sentence in a case that many believed was politically motivated. He denies the charges.

Senstov is currently serving his sentence in a high-security prison known as the Polar Bear in Russia's Far North Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District.

According to most recent reports, Sentsov's health has gravely deteriorated since he began his hunger strike nearly three months ago.

"Things are not just bad, they're catastrophically bad," his cousin Natalya Kaplan, who visited Sentsov in prison, wrote on her Facebook account. "He can barely get up."