Winter at the Kingston Foreshore on Lake Burley Griffin
Russia has been imprisoning Ukrainians opposed to the Russian occupation since it began over four years ago, many of them in inhumane conditions, and many of them convicted after being tortured.
Oleh (often written as Oleg in the West) Sentsov, a filmmaker from Crimea opposed to the annexation of his homeland, has been behind bars for years, but has now gone on a hunger strike to have other political prisoners (not himself) freed.
It’s not achieved much so far, as the Western media does an excellent job of pretending there’s no war in Ukraine, but now superstar author Stephen King has taken up Sentsov’s cause. Along with numerous other writers and filmmakers, he has written to Putin to draw attention to the issue while the world’s focusing on the World Cup (spoiler: Putin couldn’t care less!).
You can find the letter in question HERE. Sentsov has been on his hunger strike a long time, and there are serious concerns about his survival now.
President of Russia
23, Ulitsa Ilyinka
Cc: Gianni Infantino, President, FIFA
Dear President Putin,
We, the undersigned artists, writers, filmmakers, and activists, join PEN America to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the wrongfully imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. In light of Sentsov’s ongoing hunger strike, our request is urgent.
Oleg Sentsov, the 2017 recipient of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, has been held prisoner by the Russian government for more than four years. In May 2014, he was detained in his native Crimea and brought to Moscow on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism. Numerous governments and human rights organizations have identified these allegations as politically charged, groundless fabrications orchestrated in retaliation for Sentsov’s outspoken criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. On August 25, 2015, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sentsov himself says he was tortured during his detention in an unsuccessful attempt to extract a false confession. One of the defendants, Hennadij Afanasjew, later retracted his own testimony against Sentsov, saying he was brutally tortured into saying Sentsov was part of a terrorist organization. Two appeals of the verdict have been rejected, as has a request for Sentsov to be extradited to Ukraine. Sentsov has always maintained his innocence.
On May 14, Sentsov declared an indefinite hunger strike, stating that “the one and only condition for its termination is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners that are currently present on the territory of the Russian Federation.” This brave yet dangerous decision was not taken lightly; in the northern Siberia penal colony where Sentsov is held, and with his health already weakened, it is uncertain how long he can survive. Thus, the need for action is urgent.
As Russia prepares to host the World Cup in the coming weeks, the eyes of the world will be on the country. Sentsov’s campaign will rightly draw attention to the injustice of his detention and that of dozens of other political prisoners in Russia. He has told his lawyer he is willing to die to bring global attention to his cause. In the spirit of this unifying global event, we therefore urge you to take this opportunity to make a powerful statement by releasing Oleg Sentsov immediately and unconditionally. His life depends on it.
Kwame Anthony Appiah
J. M. Coetzee
B. J. Novak
I hope many people will develop a conscience and join in the boycott of the World Cup in Russia that begins today. Who cares about men chasing a ball when it’s happening in Putin’s corrupt, brutal dictatorship?
I’m not sure how many war crimes in Ukraine and Syria, how many invasions and annexations, or how many assassinations it will take for the world to prioritise humanity over soccer, but we’re not there yet.
I’m a bit late with a post today, because I got home late last night and wanted to write about where I’d been. Also, the wine was free-flowing at the function, and I wasn’t in the mood to type when I got back!
At the invitation of the embassy, last night I attended the Australian premiere of the movie Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die (Кiборги: Герої не вмирають). It’s hard to believe, but this is the first time I’ve been to see a movie since Les Misérables in early 2012!
Cyborgs is a movie about the battle for Donetsk Sergey Prokofiev International Airport (named after the Ukrainian composer) during 2014, the first year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Cyborgs is the nickname given to the Ukrainian Army units who fought, lost, and died in the conflict.
When the battle began the airport was brand new, and had just been built for the Euro 2012 Football Championship.
Here is drone footage of the place after the battle (about twenty seconds in). Other than the ruined aerobridges, it’s hard to tell it’s an airport until about 2:20 when there’s suddenly a burnt-out plane. It’s total destruction:
At the moment, the major Ukrainian city of Donetsk has fallen to the Russians and is allegedly now part of the Kremlin-invented “Donetsk People’s Republic”. I have family who lived there who – like a few million others in the region – had to flee. Why this humanitarian crisis never makes the news is beyond me.
The film is entirely about the battle, which I’m sure was a little disturbing to some of the guests who attended! Think Black Hawk Down, with a bit less gore. Cyborgs is a brilliant movie because it utterly refuses to work as propaganda. I’d heard from Western journalists who’d already seen it in Europe that it was surprisingly balanced in its portrayal.
This is in stark contrast to most war movies that paint one side as perfect and the other evil. Right now in Australia they are showing WW2-era movies late at night, and they’re all ridiculous. The pre-Pearl Harbor ones – imported to America from Britain – have all war things edited out of them, and the post-Pearl Harbor ones are blatant propaganda, where the US singlehandedly saves the world a million times over.
I don’t know what more Ukraine can do to get anyone to give a damn about the ongoing Russian invasion. It’s ironic that the day I attended this function was the same day it was confirmed it was the Russian military who shot down MH17 (duh!). Imagine this war was happening in any other country in Europe. Imagine how different the international reaction would be.
Still looking beautiful in Canberra, even though it’s the last month of autumn!
Nothing to do with books, but I want to share a petition. ^^^^
I know, everyone’s signing a million petitions on Change.org these days. However, if you wouldn’t mind signing this one…
Any art form comes with responsibility. Promoting propaganda just because you thought the cinematography or script were good is dangerous. It’s appalling. That America will reward and promote Russian propaganda against Ukraine when their own democracy has been so badly damaged by the same thing is incomprehensible. Many thousands of Ukrainians are dead and dying, but the Tribeca folks care more about “art”.
Remember that people were more interested in Leni Riefenstahl’s filmmaking skills than they were in the fact she was making propaganda films for Hitler? It’s not okay.
This movie is anti-Ukrainian, and floats the theory all of Ukraine should be invaded and occupied by Russia.
Sorry, pretentious, arty – ignorant! – film people, but you don’t deserve a pass on this one.