Russian court sentences Ukrainian film director to 20 years in jail

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2015 9:08 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov to 20 years in a high-security penal colony for "terrorist attacks" in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in April 2014, RIA news agency said.

The Crimea-born Sentsov pleaded not guilty and denounced the trial as politically driven, amid high tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow's role in the crisis in Ukraine.

The military court in Russia's south-western city of Rostov on Don sentenced the second defendant in the case, Alexander Kolchenko, to 10 years in prison. State prosecutors have asked for jail sentences of 23 years for Sentsov and 12 for Kolchenko.

TV footage showed the two men locked in a courtroom cage, laughing in derision when sentencing was pronounced. They put their arms round each other's shoulder in solidarity and broke into an impromptu rendering of the Ukrainian national anthem.

"In the words of Oleg Sentsov – a trial by the occupier cannot be just by very definition," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on his Facebook site "Be strong, Oleg! There will come a time when those who organized this so-called trial will themselves sit on the bench of the accused."

Amnesty International has denounced the trial.

"The men have been subjected to an unfair trial on 'terrorism' charges relating to their opposition to Russia's occupation of Crimea," the rights group said.

"The military trial was rife with irregularities, including shocking revelations about the use of torture and other ill-treatment to extract testimony."

Russian state prosecutors charged Sentsov with organizing a "terrorist group" in Crimea to wrestle the peninsula away from Russia after the annexation. Russian investigators say the two set on fire two offices in Crimea between April and May 2014, including one of Russia's ruling party, United Russia, RIA said.

Russia annexed Crimea after protests in Kiev toppled Ukraine's Moscow-allied president, Viktor Yanukovich. Unrest then spilled into east Ukraine, where fighting between Kiev forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed more than 6,500 people to date.

The West imposed sanctions on Russia over Crimea and has stepped them up since then, accusing Moscow of driving the rebellion in east Ukraine. Moscow sides with the rebels but denies sending serving Russian troops or arms to the separatist militias.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Richard Balmforth, editing by Larry King)