Artist and Tyrant: Sokurov Pleads for Putin to Free Sentsov

by    /  January 6, 2017  / No comments

This video became the most discussed in Ukraine in the beginning of December. It shows the helplessness and ugly relations that happen between an artist and authorities in any piece of land controlled by Russia.

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian filmmaker from Crimea, best known for his 2011 film “Gamer.” He was convicted to 20 years in jail by the Russian court on charges of plotting terrorist acts in the peninsula. Of course, all these charges were fabricated. Russian authorities just enacted revenge on Oleg, because during the 2014 Crimean crisis he helped deliver food and supplies to Ukrainian servicemen trapped in their Crimean bases by Russian “Little Green Men.” Later, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement on its website, called the trial “a judicial farce.” European directors Agnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Pedro Almodóvar co-signed a letter from the European Film Academy to Russian authorities, demanding that the charges against Sentsov be dropped.

Alexander Sokurov remembers how is to be a target of Soviet authorities oppressions. His first movies angered Communist party officials so deeply that he even would say that there is a place in a concentration camp near Syktyvkar for him. His movies have not been screened for a long time. Famous film-maker Andrey Tarkovsky was afraid that communist bonzes could murder Sokurov and persuaded him to leave the USSR. And now we see how that hoary with age master begs snobby dictator to free his colleague.

“I have a plea from my heart to you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, as a citizen of Russia as a filmmaker. Let’s solve the problem of Oleg Sentsov. 20 years in the camps. That guy is imprisoned in the Arctic concentration camp. I am ashamed that we still can not solve this problem. I implore you to find a solution to this problem. It’s impossible. As a filmmaker, Sentsov should fight with me at film festivals, even if he has different political point of view. But not sitting in our Arctic prison. It’s a shame and sad that I have to talk about it”.

Sokurov is talking only about his own shame and shame of few intelligent people, not about Putin’s shame because he is absolutely shameless. Vladimir Vladimirovich uses Russian judicial system as a convenient tool for reprisals for many years.

“We live in a constitutional state, Putin answered, so that questions should be solved by courts. He was charged not on film-making, but on terrorism”.

Sokurov understands two things: there is no possibility to use rational arguments to persuade Putin and some true facts are absolutely forbidden. He has to call Ukrainian Crimea annexation “the most complicated political collision” and “tangled complexity of the political situation” which is “impossible to understand by such a plain guy like Sentsov.”

Putin answers that the case in not in Sentsov’s political views, but in his terrorist intentions. “But Orthodox faith says that mercy is above justice,” Sokurov replies.

“My court is above mercy and justice,” Putin would like to say, but it would be too much. He says, “It is necessary that the proper conditions are ripe” instead. That means “something for a change” in the Kremlin slang. Moscow needs a lot of hostages to get back its failed spies and friendly gangsters. Ukrainian soldier Nadya Savchenko was changed for two Russian officers captured in occupied areas of Ukraine. Estonian officer Eston Kohver was changed for Russian spy Alexey Dressen. But conditions are not ripe for Sentsov yet. What things or people (which are the same) useful for Putin could he be changed for? Sokurov should be disturbed by only that question.

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About the Author

Oleh Shynkarenko is a Ukrainian writer, artist, and blogger who lives and works in Kiev. As a journalist he has written for a variety of Ukrainian media, as well as The Daily Beast, The Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and Future Challenges. He also published the book How to Disappear Completely in 2007 and the novel Kaharlyk in 2014, during the Ukrainian Revolution. In the initial stages of Kaharlyk’s publication, he was interrogated by Ukrainian government officials and his controversial blog posts criticizing then-president Viktor Yanukovych were censored. He now works for the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in Kiev.

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