Czech-registered NGO People in Need has launched a campaign calling for the release of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who was sentenced to twenty years in jail in a political trial after protesting against Russia's annexation of Crimea, and who has been on a hunger strike in a Russian prison for over three months.
"We decided to support Oleh because he has been on a hunger strike for more than three months and we have messages from his cousin that his state of health is really getting worse, he can barely stand and his heart rate is very low – about 40 beats per minute – but he is determined to continue in this protest until his demand is met, which is the release of all 64 Ukrainian political prisoners being held on Russian territory – or until the very end. We decided to support his case because we know that he was unjustly charged and convicted in a process that was politicized and Instagram was the platform that we decided to use," Zuzana Gruberová of People in Need said, Radio Praha reported.
"We asked people to take a picture and add the hashtag 'OlegInNeed'. We have printed them on a printer and will send the pictures to the prison where Oleh Sentsov is being held," she said.
"We hope they will get there on time, because it has been more than three months, 93 days, since he went on hunger strike, so we feel the sooner we send them, the better it is," she stressed.
Gruberová also said about the public reaction to that.
"The response was bigger than we expected. We collected more than 200 pictures, not only from the Czech Republic but also from abroad. And some well-known public figures joined in, for instance Marek Hilšer, the former presidential candidate, the famous Czech singer Tomáš Klus or actress Jana Plodková and of course a lot of ordinary people from the Czech Republic who just want to stand up for the principles that Oleh wants to protect by his action," she said.
Answering a question, whether it is a message to the Russian authorities or it is simply a show of moral support for Sentsov, Gruberová said: "I would see this primarily as a message of moral support for the case that Oleh is fighting for because he is standing up not only for himself but mainly for the other prisoners who are being imprisoned for their opinions, which is a terrible thing, if you think about it – to be stripped of your freedom and dignity because of your opinions. And the other layer that I see is to bring together the people who feel that this case is important. They can somehow get together and express that view by supporting a person who is standing so firmly behind his beliefs."