Scores of Ukrainian detainees remain in Russia
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was among 70 detainees from Russia and Ukraine released in a long-awaited prisoner swap—35 from each side. Among those Sentsov was exchanged for is a suspect in thw downing of Flight MH-17 that killed 298 people in 2014.. Last year, Sentsov spent 145 days on a hunger strike, demanding the release of all Ukrainians held in Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea on politically motivated charges. In October 2018, he won the Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament's award for freedom of thought. (HRW, CNN) Human Rights in Ukraine decried the fact that, despite the swap, at least 87 Ukrainian political prisoners remain imprisoned in Russia or occupied Crimea, in addition to at least 225 hostages held by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region. In light of this reality, the group said the "upbeat noises" in Western media about a "normalization" in Ukrainian-Russian relations "seem at very least premature."
Human Rights in Ukraine especially noted the case of 54-year-old Volodymyr Dudka, now in failing health in a Russian prison in Crimea. Prison authorities are providing only "minimum treatment," and have refused to release the results of his last medical examination, carried out almost a year ago. Dudka is believed to be suffering from a stomach ulcer and enlarged prostate. He was arrested last November by Russia's security agency, the FSB , as a member of a "sabotage-terrorist group" supposedly under the command of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Dudka was sentenced in April to 14 years imprisonment, despite what the rights group calls "gross falsification" of evidence in his case.