Freed in prisoner swap, Ukraine’s Sentsov warns: Don’t trust Russia
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov on Tuesday warned against trusting Russian President Vladimir Putin, after Moscow freed him from jail in a historic prisoner swap with Kiev this weekend.
“As far as Russia’s wishes for peace go, a wolf can put on a lamb’s clothing, but his teeth don’t disappear. Don’t believe this,” Sentsov said after flying in to Kiev on Saturday along with 34 other Ukrainian prisoners.
Russia in turn received 35 people detained by Ukraine, including a journalist for state news agency RIA Novosti accused of “high treason”.
Relations between Kiev and Moscow have been in tatters since Russia annexed Crimea and a war with Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine erupted in 2014.
Kiev and the West accuse Russia of fanning the flames of the conflict by providing the rebels with troops and arms to keep the post-Soviet neighbour in its orbit.
Rejecting accusations of military intervention, Moscow has said it hopes to “normalise” its relations with Kiev after former comedian Volodymyr Zelensky won a political landslide in the presidential election in April.
Both Moscow and Kiev have described the prisoner exchange as a positive step towards this.
Sentsov was arrested in 2014 and was serving a 20-year sentence in an Arctic penal colony for planning “terrorist attacks” in his home region of Crimea.
His jailing sparked a star-studded international campaign calling for his release and he became a symbol of Kiev’s resistance to Moscow.
Dressed casually in a polo shirt and jeans, the 43-year-old seemed calm and composed at his first press conference since being released.
The prisoner swap “doesn’t mean Russia is ready to liberate Ukraine, to give back Crimea and Donbass,” Sentsov said, referring to the separatist-held eastern region.
Ukraine will only be able to regain control of the Crimean peninsula after “an inevitable change of regime in Russia,” Sentsov said.
While in jail, Sentsov refused food for 145 days to push for the release of all Ukrainian prisoners in Russia, suffering serious health problems in the process.
The film-maker is best known for his movie “Gamer”, which screened to critical acclaim at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2012.