Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov must petition Russian President Vladimir Putin himself if he wants to start the clemency process, Russian authorities have stated.
The statement comes from the office for citizens’ constitutional rights, under the Administration of the President, in response to a request for pardon from the Ukrainian filmmaker’s mother, Liudmyla Sentsova.
Sentsov is currently serving a 20-year sentence at the White Bear colony in the Russian town of Labytnangi. He has been on a hunger strike since May, calling for the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and Russia-occupied Crimea.
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The administration stated that Sentsova's request was sent to the acting governor of the Yamalo-Nenets district, where the colony is located, for preliminary consideration.
"At the same time, we clarify that, in accordance with the regulations on the procedure for considering petitions for clemency in the Russian Federation ... the pardon procedure begins with a personal petition for clemency from the convicted person, addressed in writing to the President of the Russian Federation through the administration of the correctional facility where he is serving a sentence,” the administration’s statement reads.
The administration also noted that the final decision on whether a person is pardoned is made by the president.
Sentsov’s cousin Nataliya Kaplan told Hromadske that the response indicates that the Ukrainian filmmaker will not be released.
READ MORE: Sentsov’s Cousin Says He Could Die Soon
"His mother's reaction to this wasn’t bad. It seems to me that she simply did not realize the point of the document. The lawyer and I will be considering what to do next. Oleg definitely won’t write a petition for a pardon. I can say that this answer indicates that Oleg won’t be released. They still call him a Russian citizen and have made it clear that the mother's request (for pardon - ed.) did not work,” she said.
The reply from the Administration of the Russian President sent to Oleg Sentsov's mother. The photo was provided to Hromadske.
It should be noted that Nadiya Savchenko, a former prisoner of war and a member of Ukraine’s parliament, was pardoned without personally petitioning Putin. It was relatives of deceased journalists from All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, who asked for Savchenko’s release. She was accused of murdering the journalists.
Additionally, prior to Savchenko’s release, the wives of two Main Intelligence Directorate workers – Yevgeny Erofeev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov – asked for their husbands to be exchanged for the Ukrainian. The exchange later took place.
On August 14, Russian human rights activist Zoya Svetova visited Sentsov in the colony. While they did not discuss the question of a prisoner exchange, according to Svetova, Sentsov is hoping for one.
On August 8, Kaplan reported that Sentsov's condition is serious: he can not walk and letters aren’t being passed on to him.
On August 9, the Russian Presidential Administration reported that they received a letter from Sentsova, requesting a pardon for her son. The administration stated that it was not ready to release an official reaction to the letter.
Sentsov was detained in Crimea on May 10, 2014 with activist Oleksandr Kolchenko. They were accused of plotting acts of terrorism. Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and Kolchenko to 10.