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Oleg Sentsov: A fourth birthday behind bars

Article by Alison Wells © 13 July 2018.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

Friday 13 July is the Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov’s 42nd birthday. This will be the fourth birthday he spends behind bars, away from his children and family. Instead, he will be on day 61 of his hunger strike, calling for the release of imprisoned Ukrainians in Russia. Oleg’s cousin, Natalia Kaplan, visited him in prison earlier this month. He has reportedly lost 15 kg. Speaking to the press, she said “Yesterday he was very bad, today he’s feeling normal. He’s getting worse in the evenings. He is not going to halt his hunger strike. He said he would go all the way and believes in his victory.

Sentsov’s birthday also happens to fall on the last week of the World Cup, during which many have joined the #KeepingScore campaign.

There are a number of PEN Centres who have been doing amazing campaigning work on his behalf; English PEN are gathering messages of solidarity and both PEN America and PEN Kenya are hosting screenings about his case.

To mark his birthday, PEN International is asking supporters to tweet messages to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. As we near the end of this unique opportunity to put pressure on the Russian authorities to release Sentsov, and with his health failing, it is crucial that we work together on this final push.

Below are suggested tweets:

  • .@PutinRF_Eng, Oleg Sentsov should not be behind bars on his birthday.  He should be with his family. Release him immediately #FreeSentsov #KeepingScore
  • Today marks Oleg Sentsov’s 42nd birthday and day 61 of his hunger strike in a Siberian prison .@PutinRF_Eng release him now! #FreeSentsov #KeepingScore
  • .@PutinRF_Eng, the world is watching. Oleg Sentsov grows weaker by the day on hunger strike.  Today is his birthday. He must be freed! #FreeSentsov #KeepingScore @FIFAWorldCup

We want to encourage as many of you as possible to share these on your social media accounts, and please ask as many of your high-profile supporters to do so as well. We know that your participation will hugely amplify the impact of PEN’s campaign for Oleg Sentsov’s freedom. I also attach a graphic created to mark his birthday to this email.

For more information please see:


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Alison Wells runs the Random Acts of Optimism blog and lives in Bray, Co. Wicklow with her husband and four children. Her short fiction been published in many magazines and online and print anthologies and she has been featured on Sunday Miscellany. Shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, Bridport and Fish Prize's she has just completed a themed short story collection Random Acts of Optimism and a literary novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities. To read Alison's full blog, visit Head Above Water. Find out in her Random Acts of Optimism how she manages to juggle writing, children and life.