Sentsov Awarded European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in Strasbourg
Oleh Sentsov was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize in Strasbourg
The 2018 Sakharov Prize winner and former prisoner of the Kremlin Oleh Sentsov, received his award in Strasbourg today (Nov. 26).
The European Parliament declared the Ukrainian film director the laureate of the award on Oct. 25, 2018. A year ago, he was unable to accept the award personally, since he was imprisoned in Russia. His sister Nataliia Kaplan and lawyer Dmitriy Dinze received the award on his behalf. At the presentation ceremony, calls to release political prisoners from Russian captivity were made repeatedly.
The award was presented to Sentsov by the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli. On Sep. 7, the day Oleh Sentsov returned home from a Russian prison, Sassoli tweeted that he hoped to present the award personally.
“It is a great honor for me to welcome Oleh Sentsov here. He returned to Ukraine after five years in prison on charges of terrorism. Last year, he was in prison in Siberia. Many of you remember the empty space at the ceremony. This empty place was a symbol of his struggle for democracy. I would like to pay tribute to you for your courage, determination and sense of honor,” Sassoli said.
In his speech, Sentsov made calls not to trust Putin and to remember all those Ukrainians who are still illegally detained in Russian prisons.
“Despite all of the internal problems, the EU continues to move forward. I believe that this is a very good organization – an example for us. There is one country that is probably the biggest Euro-optimist in the world right now – it’s Ukraine. For us, there’s no other path forward. It’s a way out. For us, it’s a matter of survival as a country. So, every time one of you thinks about how to reach over our heads for Putin’s hand in friendship, remember each of the 13,000 who’ve died in Ukraine – the hundreds of our guys who are still there in prisons, who could be undergoing torture right now – consider the Crimean Tatars who could be getting arrested right now, those guys who are, right now, in the trenches – who are risking their lives for ours and your freedom. Don’t forget about them please, ” Sentsov told the audience.
The award, named after the Soviet physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, was founded by the European Parliament in 1988. Since then, it has been awarded annually to those who defend human rights. Its laureates at different times included Nelson Mandela and the United Nations. And now, Oleh Sentsov became the first Ukrainian to receive the prize.