November 26, 2019 / 1:27 PM / 13 days ago

Freed film-maker Sentsov tells Europe: beware of Russia

European Parliament President David Sassoli gives Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov his 2018 Sakharov Prize during an award ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

PARIS (Reuters) - A Ukrainian film-maker freed in a prisoner swap after four years in a Russian jail warned Europe against growing friendly with Moscow as he received an EU human rights prize on Tuesday.

Oleg Sentsov, who was arrested in Crimea after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory in 2014, was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought last year while he was still in jail.

“It’s a huge honour and also a huge responsibility. I accept this prize as a prize for all Ukraine political prisoners who have been in Russian prisons,” Sentsov told the European Parliament after it handed him the award.

“I do not trust (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and I call upon you not to trust him either. Russia and Mr Putin will absolutely cheat you. They want to see Ukraine on its knees,” he added.

A Russian military court sentenced Sentsov to 20 years in a maximum security prison in 2015 after finding him guilty of setting fire to two offices in Crimea, including one belonging to Russia’s ruling political party. (reut.rs/34mt62J)

He pleaded not guilty at the time and denounced his trial as politically motivated. He was among 35 Ukrainian detainees who were swapped on Sept. 7 in exchange for an equal number of prisoners that Russia wanted to bring home.

The prize, named after Soviet dissident and nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, is awarded annually by the European Parliament in Strasbourg to people who “have dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedom of thought.”

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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