EU parliament awards prize to Ukrainian filmmaker jailed in Russia

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov looks on from a defendants' cage as he attends a court hearing in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov/File Photo

The European Parliament awarded its annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on Thursday to Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film-maker jailed in Russia.

EU lawmakers said they supported his protests against the 2014 Russian annexation of Sentsov’s native Ukraine. Now aged 42, he was jailed for 20 years on terrorism charges he says are politically motivated. He staged a long hunger strike this year.

The Sakharov Prize is named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, a nuclear physicist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his efforts to stand up for civil rights.

Parliament President Antonio Tajani told the legislature in Strasbourg that the award recognised Sentsov’s courage. Saying he was in poor health after his hunger strike, Tajani added: “We call upon the authorities to release him immediately.”