Edmonton woman hopes to spur Canadian action to help Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov

Oleg Sentsov sits behind glass in a cage at a court room in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
Oleg Sentsov sits behind glass in a cage at a court room in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. AP Photo

A local playwright is hoping a petition she started will help a Ukrainian political prisoner currently on a hunger strike in Russia.

Crimean filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was jailed in 2014 after speaking out against the Russian occupation of Crimea. He’s demanding the release of 70 Ukrainian activists currently in a Russian prison.

This is the 100th day of Sentsov’s hunger strike, and according to Amnesty International, he’s already lost more than 33 pounds.

Edmontonian Lianna Makuch is Ukrainian, and even travelled to Ukraine to research her local production, “Blood of Our Soil”.

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Makuch said Canadians should be horrified by Sentsov’s treatment.

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“Because it’s a violation of basic human rights, of basic human dignity, and just one example of the things that the Putin administration and the Russian government are getting away with,” said Makuch.

Makuch’s family is Ukrainian, and from the stories her grandmother has told her, she believes this is history repeating itself.

“It’s totally old Soviet-style tactics of shutting people up who you don’t want to be heard,” Makuch said. “And Oleg Sentsov and the other political prisoners were people that were identified who were acting for their land that was taken from them — that was illegally annexed.”

Makuch’s petition demands Canada take direct action to help Sentsov. She’s hoping to get the attention of both the prime minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“Every time that somebody signs the petition, it forwards a letter to the politicians’ office,” said Makuch. “So every time somebody signs the petition, the letter is sent to Chrystia Freeland and Justin Trudeau.”

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Makuch said besides the petition, she also plans to try for sit-downs with local MPs in an effort to have the issue addressed in the House of Commons.


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