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Spoiling Mr Putin's extravaganza

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Spoiling Mr Putin's extravaganza

The Editorial commentator of The New York Times feels that in the midst of hosting the World Cup soccer extravaganza, the last thing Vladimir Putin wants to be reminded of is human rights, Crimea or Ukraine Ukraine. That's a good reason to raise the case of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian Crimea filmmaker who has been on a hunger strike for more than a month in a remote Siberian penal colony, to remind the Russian president that his costly sport show does not wipe away his government's crimes. Mr. Sentsov, a 41-year-old native of Crimea, was making a name on the film festival circuit and working on his second feature film when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. He was arrested with three other Ukrainians on charges of "terrorism," which purportedly consisted of plotting to blow up a statue of Lenin and set fire to the door of a Russian political party. Mr. Sentsov said he was beaten into a confession; during his trial, the main witness against him retracted his testimony, saying it was given under torture. No matter. Following in the best tradition of the Soviet era, Mr. Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison, which he is currently serving in Russia's northernmost prison. On May 14, he went on a hunger strike to demand the release of about 70 Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. The case has raised an international outcry. Prominent film directors, Russian and international, declared their support for Mr. Sentsov; the European Union called the case a "breach of international law and elementary standards of justice"; on Thursday, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding the immediate release of Mr. Sentsov and the other Ukrainian prisoners. President Emmanuel Macron of France raised the case with Mr. Putin. The Kremlin has gone on its usual counterattack. It maliciously claimed that Mr. Sentsov's bruises were not torture marks but a result of his "sadomasochism." Kremlin-allied media have cast aspersions on his filmmaking and, of course, have claimed that Western protests over his incarceration are a ploy to undermine Russia's World Cup tournament. — The New York Times

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