The rally, scheduled to coincide with the reading of the verdict to Sentsov and Kolchenko at the North Caucasian District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don, was attended by Sentsov’s colleagues, public activists and common people who showed up to give their support to the Ukrainian prisoners of conscience.
They were holding Sentsov and Kolchenko’s portraits, as well as portraits of Gennadiy Afanasyev and Alexey Chirniy, two other political prisoners from Ukraine. The protesters called on the Russian authorities and Putin to cease ongoing repression and release all Ukrainians currently being held in Russian prisons. It is not so much the crimes they have committed but rather their uncompromising stance on Crimea’s occupation and war in Donbass, which runs contrary to the Kremlin-inspired propaganda, that landed them in the Russian prisons, the participants claimed.
Because nobody at the rally had any illusions about being heard by the Russian regime, there were calls on the Ukrainian government to step up diplomatic efforts and push for release of all Ukrainian prisoners of conscience held in Russian jails.
“Not only should we demand that Russia release Ukrainian citizens illegally captured and convicted in Crimea, but also prod the Ukrainian authorities, who have done next to nothing in the 18 months, into having them released,” said Oleg Fialko, Ukrainian film director, screen writer and merited artist.
According to him, Pyotr Poroshenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other Ukrainian politicians should bring up the subject of Ukrainian citizens illegally held in Russian prisons during their talks with world leaders.
Traditionally for such events, there has been no response to the rally from the Russian embassy’s personnel.