Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has lost 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and is suffering heart problems after hunger striking in a Russian prison for almost three months, his lawyer told AFP on Tuesday.
Lawyer Dmitry Dinze who visited Sentsov in prison earlier Tuesday said that his client now has very low levels of haemoglobin (red blood cells) while his heart has slowed to 40 beats a minute.
“He looks bad but he is trying to bear up,” Dinze said of the director, who has vowed to continue his hunger strike until Russia frees its Ukrainian political prisoners.
The 42-year-old Sentsov is now on his 86th day of refusing food although he receives some nutritional supplements from medics.
In early July a cousin said Sentsov, a tall man at 1.90 metres (six foot three) had lost 15 kilograms from his original weight of 100 kilograms since launching the strike on May 14.
Dinze said he did not agree with a statement by the prison service on Tuesday that Sentsov’s state of health remained “satisfactory.”
“No, I don’t agree. his state is bad,” he said.
Amnesty International complained last week that Russia refused its request to visit him with an independent medical expert amid “grave concerns” over his health.
The prisoner is aware that he could die, Dinze added. “He is ready to fight for his position to the end, yes.”
Dinze posted on Facebook a handwritten note from Sentsov with Tuesday’s date where he rejects a proposal by lawyers to transfer him to a hospital in his home region of Crimea and acknowledges his poor state of health.
“It’s not necessarily the case that they’d get me there alive,” Sentsov writes.
“My condition is not transportable now so I will stay where I am.”
Western governments led by French President Emmanuel Macron and celebrities including Pedro Almodovar, Johnny Depp and Stephen King have repeatedly urged the Kremlin to release Sentsov.
Sentsov’s mother has urged President Vladimir Putin to issue the vocal Kremlin critic with a pardon.
Lawyer Dinze wrote on Facebook that he had heard suggestions from diplomats involved in Sentsov’s case that Russia does not plan to release him.
“Information from diplomats who are in contact with Russia to resolve the problem of Oleg Sentsov indicates that they don’t plan to release Sentsov,” Dinze wrote.
He summarised Russia’s apparent attitude as: “let him die to teach the other prisoners a lesson.”
– ‘I don’t plan to stop’ –
The European Court of Human Rights last month called on Russia to provide “appropriate treatment” to Sentsov and urged him to end his hunger strike and accept “vital care.”
However, Sentsov continues to refuse hospitalisation, Dinze said, stressing that his client is making a conscious choice.
Sentsov wrote in his note that “I’m not ill, I’m on hunger strike, and I don’t plan to stop.”
Sentsov is serving a 20-year sentence on terrorism charges after he was convicted of arson attacks on pro-Moscow party offices in Crimea after its 2014 annexation from Ukraine.
He is imprisoned in a penal colony in the far north of Russia.
As a filmmaker Sentsov is best known for his film “Gamer”, which screened to critical acclaim at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2012.