On Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, Julie and Mrs Marju Lauristin (S&D, Estonia) hosted the Open Dialog Foundation for a debate event on the “Ukrainian Political Prisoners in Russia and occupied Crimea”, at the European Parliament , as well as a movie screening of Oleg Sentsov, Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner in Russia followed the debate.
The President of the Open Dialog Foundation, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, introduced the international advocacy campaign #LetMyPeopleGo and two speakers: Mr Dmitry Sotnikov, lawyer of the Euromaidan activist and Ukrainian political prisoner, Aleksandr Kostenko,and Igor Kotelianets, brother of Evgeny Panov, Ukrainian political prisoner from Crimea, held by Russian special services. Mr. Sotnikov discussed the cases of his defendant, Mr Kostenko, and the one of Mr Vitaliy Buntov. Both cases are dramatic examples of how the Russian authorities politicize the judiciary system, in the first case towards Ukrainians and in the second towards those citizens of the Russian Federation who might fill a complaint with the ECHR. Not only, Sotnikov continued: “over the last two years, the practice of exerting pressure on counsels engaged in such cases has intensified”. Therefore, it is essential to protect Russian attorneys and their defendants and to be aware of Russia’s attempt to harm the ECHR independence. At the same time, Mr Kotelianets emphasised the need for the International community to stop the aggressive policy by Russia towards Ukrainian citizens which entails means of fabricated trials, torture and psychological abuse against his brother and other hostages of the Kremlin. As for Mr Kotelianets, their relatives constantly live under fear and intimidation. Families, lawyers and consuls do not have access to meet the convicts or simply provide them with medical treatments.
MEPs attending the event from across political groups discussed the possibilities of raising the cause of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and Crimea in the European Parliament, pushing for greater EU and international action on the subject.