Russia has jailed 39-year-old Crimean filmmaker Oleg Sentsov to 20 years in prison after he was charged with plotting to carry out “terrorist” attacks in the Crimean peninsula.
Sentsov was sentenced by a military court based in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don along with fellow Crimean activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, who was sentenced to 10 years.
Both men were accused of organising a “terrorist group,” planning attacks and being in possession of explosives.
Russian authorities have also claimed Sentsov was a member of Ukraine’s far-right paramilitary group Right Sector.
Both Sentsov and Kolchenko, who were arrested with two other Ukrainian nationals in May 2014, have denied the charges.
While the other two Ukrainians - Gennady Afanasyev and Alexei Chirnigo - were sentenced to seven years each, Kolchenko could be sentenced for 12 years.
During the takeover of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, Sentsov was active in delivering food to Ukrainian servicemen who were trapped in military bases in Crimea.
Before the annexation, Sentsov had also joined the AutoMaidan movement against Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kiev after months of anti-government protests by pro-EU demonstrators.
According to prosecutors, Sentsov, who is best known for his 2011 film “Gámer” which was first screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2012. had previously confessed to the charges, but it was later said that Sentsov had done so under torture and threat of rape.
Sentsov said he would appeal against the verdict, which has been condemned by the West for being politically motivated, although Russia denies such accusations.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt both criticised the sentencing, while the UK’s Europe Minister David Lidington said he was "deeply concerned" by the verdict.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also slammed the sentencing, writing on his official Facebook page, "hang on in there, Oleg. Time will pass, and those who organised this kangaroo court will find themselves in the dock."
A number of prominent European filmmakers - including Stephen Daldry, Mike Downey, Agnieszka Holland, Dariusz Jablonski, Aki Kaurismaki, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Wojciech Marczewski, Daniel Olbrychski, Volker Schloendorff, Bela Tarr, Bertrand Tavernier, Andrzej Wajda, Wim Wenders and Krzysztof Zanuss - previously called on Russia to release Sentsov.