×

Imprisoned Ukrainian Filmmaker Oleg Sentsov Released in Prisoner Exchange

Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, whose arrest and imprisonment in Russia has been a rallying cry for the entertainment industry and human-rights groups worldwide, has been sent back to Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange Saturday, according to news reports.

Sentsov is one of 35 Ukrainians who have been transferred from Moscow to Kiev in the first prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine since 2017, the BBC said.

Sentsov was an outspoken opponent of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government and of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In May 2014, he was arrested by Russian authorities at his home in Crimea, jailed for a year in Moscow, then convicted by a military court of terrorist crimes – charges that critics say were trumped up. Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

His plight has sparked protests and denunciations by human-rights groups such as Amnesty International and by members of the entertainment industry. Last year, a vigil organized by the European Film Academy was held for Sentsov in Berlin.

“Happy endings rarely happen, except in the movies,” Mike Downey, deputy chairman of the academy, said in a statement Saturday. “But in the case of Oleg Sentsov, whilst it is a bitter victory after more than five years of struggle in the gulag and months on hunger strike, he never once relinquished his stand or his principles.”

Downey added that “the international film community must learn the lesson that there will be regimes that target filmmakers and film professionals, and we need to be prepared to react and campaign whenever that happens, as in the current case of jailed Myanmar film maker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, the recently sentenced Mohamad Rasoulof and long-term house-arrest prisoner Jaafar Panahi. In questions of filmmakers at risk and prisoners of conscience, the European Film Academy will always stand firm in solidarity.”

Photo: Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov hugs his daughter upon his arrival at Boryspil Airport, outside Kiev, Ukraine.

Popular on Variety

More Politics

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Peter Coyote Riffs on 'Country Music' and How He Admires and Challenges Ken Burns

    Though an instantly recognizable face from films such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “A Walk to Remember” and “Erin Brockovich,” it is Peter Coyote’s voice — a coolly authoritative baritone with a Zen master’s holy roll — that has endeared him to documentary lovers and makers. Alrhough director-writer Alex Gibney used Coyote’s wisened narration for “Enron: [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

  • President Donald Trump waves as he

    Trump Holds Fundraiser in Hollywood's Backyard

    President Trump paid a visit to Los Angeles on Tuesday, as part of a West Coast fundraising swing expected to raise $15 million. Trump is set to appear at a dinner at developer Geoffrey Palmer’s house in Beverly Hills, where tickets range from $1,000 to $100,000 for VIPs. Though set in Hollywood’s backyard, the event [...]

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Burning Image Debate Ad

    ABC Runs Debate Ad Showing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Burning Image

    ABC aired an ad during Thursday’s Democratic debate that depicted a burning image of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and likened her politics to those that caused the Cambodian genocide. New Faces GOP funded the ad, which features Elizabeth Heng, a Republican who lost a bid for a Fresno-area congressional seat last year. Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter, [...]

  • Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris.

    ABC News' Democratic Debate Lacked Energy and Purpose

    At long last, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren were on the same stage. And the result was a long and fairly dull evening. After two Democratic Party debate stages in which the field of candidates had been bifurcated — splitting, in both cases, the perceived frontrunners from the establishment and insurgent [...]

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden responds

    Protesters Interrupt Joe Biden During Democratic Debate

    Protesters interrupted presidential candidate Joe Biden during Thursday’s democratic debate. The chants came nearly two and a half hours in as moderator George Stephanopoulos asked the former vice president about any professional setbacks he’s faced and how he recovered from them. “We’re going to clear the protesters,” Stephanopoulos said as the chants began. “We’re sorry.” [...]

  • Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren,

    Dems Debate in Houston: Moderates Push Back on Medicare for All

    The third Democratic debate on Thursday was billed as the first showdown between the top contenders: Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden did challenge the liberal senators on health care early in the debate, which was broadcast on ABC. He asked repeatedly how they would pay for their multi-trillion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content