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article imageUkraine hunger-striker lost 15 kg but not giving up: cousin

By AFP     Jul 5, 2018 in World

Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who has been on hunger strike for over 50 days in a remote Russian prison, has lost 15 kilos but is not planning to halt his protest, his cousin said Thursday.

The anti-Kremlin director and author, 41, launched his hunger strike on May 14 to demand Russia release Ukrainian political prisoners.

He is serving a 20-year sentence on terrorism charges.

Days before the start of the World Cup in Russia last month, President Vladimir Putin said talks with Ukraine were under way on a possible prisoner exchange. That raised hopes that Sentsov could be released during the world's biggest sporting event.

But Moscow has so far shown little enthusiasm for freeing Sentsov despite calls from Western governments and celebrities for him to be released.

Nor has Moscow allowed Ukraine's top rights official to visit him in his prison in Russia's farth north.

"Oleg, whose height is 190 centimetres (6.2 feet), now weighs 75 kilograms (165 pounds)," his cousin Natalya Kaplan said in televised remarks after visiting him, their first meeting since 2014.

"He's lost 15 kilograms (33 pounds) since the start of the hunger strike," she told Ukraine's Hromadske television.

Sentsov has been fasting for 52 days, sustained by water and a glucose drip.

On average, humans can survive without food for about eight weeks.

Kaplan said Sentsov was not in critical condition although his general state varied day to day.

"Yesterday he was very bad, today he's feeling normal," she told Hromadske. "He's getting worse in the evenings," Kaplan added.

"He is not going to halt his hunger strike. He said he would go all the way and believes in his victory."

A vocal critic of the Kremlin, Sentsov is best known for his film "Gamer", which screened to critical acclaim at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2012.

He was detained in Crimea in 2014 after Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine.

Supporters say Russia wanted to make an example of him with the stiff sentence on charges of masterminding arson attacks, which he denies.

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