Russians Sentence Ukrainian Filmmaker To 20 Years Despite Recantation By Main Witness And Allegations of Torture

YouTube screenshot
YouTube screenshot
The crackdown on free speech continued in Russia this week with the sentencing of a leading critic of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was given 20 years for conspiracy to commit terror attacks. Critics have denounced the case as a sham prosecution of a critic and compared the move (like so many under Vladimir Putin) as a return to Soviet-style trials for critics.

The Russians accused Sentsov of creating a terror cell in the Crimean Peninsula and was plotting attacks. Britain and other nations do not buy it and have criticized the case.

Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko (who was given 10 years) have been detained since May 2014. Sentsov was snatched off the street in the Crimea capital in May 2014 and then surfaced in Moscow to face charges. He has challenged the jurisdiction of the court to try him.

Sentsov, 39, was the victim of torture according to his supporters who pointed out bruises on this body. Russian police insisted that those bruises were the result of his love for sadomasochistic sex. At the trial, the main prosecution witness recanted said his evidence had been extorted under torture.

Sentsov remained defiant in court: “When they put a bag on your head, beat you up a bit, half an hour later you’re ready to go back on all your beliefs, implicate yourself in whatever they ask, implicate others, just to stop them beating you. I don’t know what your beliefs can possibly be worth if you are not ready to suffer or die for them. . . . I am not going to beg for leniency. Everything is already clear. A court of occupiers cannot be just by definition.”

23 thoughts on “Russians Sentence Ukrainian Filmmaker To 20 Years Despite Recantation By Main Witness And Allegations of Torture”

  1. Bam Bam:

    The same former FBI field agent listed earlier that specialized in domestic terrorism also said that since about 2006 the FBI has mission-creeped from real terrorists to “Environmental Rights Activists” as the #1 domestic terrorism threat. Excessive secrecy creates corruption and little else.

    The U.S. Government fed us the same line after 9/11. The ACLU found that the vast majority of people punished or detained had absolutely zero ties to terrorism. Guantanamo had an innocent rate exceeding 80%. 86% of Gitmo detainees weren’t even captured by U.S. troops or even near a real battlefield – the traditional standard for detaining POWs since World War Two. These detainees were SOLD to the U.S. Government using huge bounties paid to tribal chieftains – they essentially sold us the people they didn’t like – not real terrorists.

    Do you have a source with greater knowledge than a terrorism expert working in the field for over 15 years? You can see this video if you go to and enter the former FBI agent’s name “Michael German” into the search box.

  2. Ross

    Again, absent any knowledge regarding the gravity of the evidence against these individuals, you make a giant and flawed leap in supposing that the Russian government has chosen to target innocent boy scouts by unfairly and unjustly prosecuting or imprisoning them on charges of terror-linked activities. I am assuming, either correctly or incorrectly, that the authorities have ample evidence and cause to act as they have in this situation. Extremely dangerous individuals, with known ties to and involvement with terrorists, are often allowed free, unfettered reign in the West. People like you will only cry and complain once one of your loved ones is the victim of these animals, declaring and demanding–why didn’t the government do more to apprehend these terrorists when they had intelligence indicating such an attack would occur?

  3. Re: Bam Bam

    The basics apply to any nation. There has to be real evidence or oath-sworn testimony of a witness under penalty of perjury. Once you have that, the “accused” needs to confronted by his or “accuser” and the evidence. Then the “accused” has a right to a jury of their peers to determine guilt.

    It may seem American but it is actually based on centuries of legal tradition in civilized nations with an “innocent until proven guilty” judicial system. In civilized nations the “burden” of proof is on the accusers not the accused. Nobody has to prove they inocent to anyone in civilized nations.

    If you read the above article and links, the “accused” claims to have been tortured into confession and the testimony from a witness was also obtained using torture. The witness for the prosecution recanted their testimony – so there is neither real evidence nor real testimony.

    James Madison and Alexander Hamilton based the American justice system on the best practices of centuries of world history – this is the international model that is most effective for obtaining truth. Anything less is a sham which is what we have here.

  4. Ross

    This article, if you failed to notice, deals with individuals in Russia accused of conspiring to commit acts of terror. Rail against the American government all that you wish, but the bottom line is that neither of us is knowledgeable with regard to the amount of evidence which was obtained pertaining to these individuals and their purported crimes. While I am the last person to praise the Russian legal system, in light of the deadly terrorist attacks–occurring worldwide and on a frequent basis–my previous comments were praising what I ASSUMED to be the legitimate prosecution, and, ultimate incarceration, of individuals determined to create havoc and destruction in their society. No one is justifying targeting innocent people for prosecution or incarceration.

  5. Bam Bam:

    That metaphor using “rabbit holes” was based on testimony from a former FBI field agent that specialized in domestic terrorism for more than 15 years. Maybe his words should carry more weigh than politicians running for office or talk show hosts running for dollars.

    We want police and prosecutors to fit actual crimes to the correct people, but it is blatant corruption when police and prosecutors are attempting find a crime to fit to a person that they don’t like.

    There’s an old saying “American prosecutors could indict a ham sandwich”. This is where the government authorities dislike someone and try to find (or fabricate) dirt on them. Prosecutors can destroy almost anyone they want to.

    Honest police/prosecutors start with the existence of a real crime, then use real probable cause or real reasonable suspicion to investigate a suspect that likely committed the crime based on real evidence or real oath-sworn testimony (punishable by perjury).

    It would be akin to police and prosecutors targeting legal protesters at Black Lives Matters, Occupy Wall Street, etc. – not based on an actual crime ever taking place – but simply targeting people they don’t like. It’s corruption on every level.

  6. Paul – “Just like people pay big bucks to not hear Phillip Glass not play his piano.” Would you like to rephrase that? I do believe that a woman attempting to put just about anything into her vagina at the local grocery store, instead of being called “performance art”, would either be fined, jailed, or sent for treatment and the store could possibly be subject to health code violations. Maybe I’m just old fashioned.

  7. Hildegard – either it was a big vagina or a small chicken. You have seen the video. Which is it? In the US and UK it is called performance art. Just like people pay big bucks to not hear Phillip Glass not play his piano.

  8. There’s a big gap between complacency–in the form of ignoring glaring warning signs of involvement in terrorist-sponsored activities–and, as you mention, “going down too many rabbit holes” in search of crimes. While the above-referenced article does not contain a complete transcript of the proceeding, I failed to catch the part where either of these individuals denied involvement in the crimes leveled at them by the prosecution.

  9. If you are punishing the “wrong” people for violating written laws, it serves nobody’s interest and makes us all less safe – whether it’s in Russia or here in the United States.

    For someone to be guilty of violating written laws there must be “evidence or oath sworn testimony” with severe penalties for perjury by witnesses – most importantly – the “accused” must be able to confront all evidence and witnesses against them. In other words the “accuser” bears risk also.

    Mike German, a former FBI agent that specialized in domestic terrorism terrorism essentially said it is counterproductive to perform dragnet investigations of entire groups. He used the metaphor of “Alice in Wonderland” – if you go down too many rabbit-holes it defeats your mission – only go down the rabbit-holes of “individuals” (not groups) where there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion of a crime. [paraphrasing from his interview on]

    If any government is practicing blacklisting or domestic spying – none of the truth-finding steps (listed above) are being used. It also allows corrupt officials to punish legal exercises by citizens using guilt by association. James Madison created this truth-finding process.

  10. Say what you will about Putin and the Russian legal system, but the decision to round up, prosecute and jail unrepentant TERRORISTS–who were seeking to create havoc and destruction in Russian society–is not worthy of derision. The West is far too lenient when it continues to allow individuals, with known terrorist connections, to be given free reign. The most recent dumbfounded Muslim terrorist, who would’ve killed an entire train load of passengers the other day if he hadn’t been subdued by a few brave souls, was known to authorities as someone with some unsavory ties. A massacre was, thankfully, avoided, but it is not due to the government protecting its citizens by rounding up these dangers to society and neutralizing that threat. While I may not always agree with Russia or its politics, I applaud Putin for having the courage to keep his country safe by prosecuting and jailing these criminals.

  11. Oh please, not more anti-Russian propaganda. Yes, and of course our own government is such a shining example of democracy. Here’s a Pussy Riot flashback and wake up call for anyone who swallowed that bit of shite.

    Russian punks “Pussy Riot” and a frozen chicken in the vagina!

    “Hell-bent on publicity, but artistically challenged, three young women from Russia decided – well, it sounds like a limerick. They stole a frozen chicken from a supermarket and used it as dildo; they filmed the act, called it “art” and placed it on the web. (It is still there) Their other artistic achievements were an orgy in a museum and a crude presentation of an erect prick.

    Lately they have tried to ride on a bandwagon of political struggle. That was another flop. They poured a flood of obscene words on Putin – in Red Square, in subway (underground) stations – with zero effect. They weren’t arrested, they weren’t fined, just chased away as a nuisance. And they did not attract the attention of people. It is important to remember that Putin is an avowed enemy of Russian oligarchs, owners of the major bulk of Russian media and providers of the Moscow literati, so they print on a daily basis so much anti-Putin invective, that it’s lost its shock value. You can’t invent a new diatribe against Putin – it has been already said and published. And Putin practically never interferes with the freedom of the press.”

    Any alarm clocks going off here yet?

  12. Putin spied on our activities in Gitmo and learned from us how to waterboard and torture.

    Waterboarding is The American Way.

  13. Unfortunately, when the U.S. embraced the practices of it’s former enemies we no longer have the integrity to lecture any nation on anything.

    We do exactly the same things just on a smaller scale (except blacklisting). In the computer age we may have surpassed the Cold War era East German Stasi (communists) on the number of citizens victimized by blacklisting and domestic spying. Bush even overturned the Geneva Conventions and the “Nuremberg Defense” legal precedents that had existed since World War Two – ultimately designed to protect U.S. POWs in future conflicts.

    We can longer judge the morality of any nation, we do it too! Maybe we should lead by actions instead.

  14. This should be a non-story for those that believe ALL rights come from government, Democracy “put” these people in power and as Paul Schulte is known to say, “their country, their rules.”

  15. We have a pilot who comments here that is a Putin apologist and hater of Ukraine. Expect him soon. I have long said Putin is the most dangerous man in the world. Retiring General Ray Odierno, a man much more knowledgeable than myself, said the same thing last week when he retired. With plummeting oil prices Putin will challenge Obama and NATO soon. Putin looking more and more like he is following Hitler’s game plan. Crimea was his Sudetenland.

  16. With all due respect, Anyone who thinks that “free speech” is a Russian value doesn’t know Russia.
    Unfortunately for the US, our leaders are becoming more and more comfortable with punishing free speech and rewarding lies ands cover ups.

  17. A court of occupiers cannot be just by definition? Sounds to me like he is shaking in his boots and terrified of his evil and abusive oppressors. Right. I hear defiance, not the absolute denial of any participation in forming a terror cell. If he can spout off about his alleged beatings or the importance of adhering to one’s beliefs, then surely he can denounce the charges brought against him involving conspiracy to commit terror acts against Russian interests. I don’t hear that coming out of him. Britain and other nations have criticized the case? You mean those countries where terror cells are allowed to form and flourish, unfettered by those amazingly tolerant societies? You mean those countries where a trip to the deli, synagogue or train station may be your last? The Russians don’t play. These cells are destroyed before they have a chance to maim and kill innocent men, women and children. Given the daily deadly attacks that we witness, by embedded terror cells, which are given the opportunity to thrive in more permissive environments, the Russian response is refreshing.

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