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article imageJailed Ukraine director says 'survived' hunger strike

By AFP     Nov 2, 2018 in World

Jailed Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who refused food for 145 days in a Russian prison, is feeling better and thinks he has "survived" the worst effects of his high-profile protest, according to a letter to a supporter.

Sentsov has been held in an Arctic jail since 2015 and went on hunger strike from May to October this year, demanding Moscow release all Ukrainian political prisoners.

"He appears to be pulling through -- knock on wood," Sentsov's friend Nikolai Shchur told AFP on Friday.

"There is still no complete certainty that everything will end well. But there's hope now."

Shchur spoke after he received a letter from Russia's most famous prisoner in which he said he felt "much" better than a month ago.

"Don't worry too much -- I have survived," Sentsov said in the letter, an excerpt of which was released by Shchur on Thursday.

"Of course my tests are not good yet but are not bad either as before," Sentsov said.

The Ukrainian film director and political activist said he still had to follow a diet and take medication but was no longer on a drip.

Shchur said Sentsov had enough energy to work on his books and scripts "some of which he plans to finish in a couple of months".

"He feels he will have enough energy for that," he said.

President Vladimir Putin refused to free Sentsov or any other Ukrainian political prisoners, despite global pressure during his hunger strike.

Early last month Sentsov halted his protest to avoid being force-fed.

Friends and relatives were afraid his heart and other organs had sustained fatal damage.

Medical professionals have said easing out of a long hunger strike may be more difficult than refusing food for a sustained period of time.

Supporters cite the example of Soviet-era dissident Anatoly Marchenko, who died in a prison hospital in 1986, days after calling off his 117-day fast.

Last month the European Parliament awarded the prestigious Sakharov human rights prize to Sentsov.

He was awarded the 50,000 euro ($58,000) prize for an "exceptional contribution" to human rights around the world, the assembly said.

Sentsov is serving a 20-year sentence in a prison in the Russian Arctic after being convicted on terrorism charges over an alleged arson plot in Crimea.

Supporters say he has been punished for his anti-Kremlin stance.

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