Hunger protests of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia: Balukh, Sentsov, Kolchenko

Author : News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

64 Ukrainian political prisoners are held in Russia and in annexed Crimea, three of them began a hunger strike
21:23, 31 May 2018

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112 Agency

Olexandr Kolchenko and Oleg Sentsov 

May 31, Ukrainian political prisoner, Olexandr Kolchenko, went on hunger strike. The purpose is the release of director Oleg Sentsov, who has declared hunger strike claiming the release of all 64 Ukrainian hostages. Olexandr has written a corresponding statement addressed to the head of the Kopeysk colony, Chelyabinsk region. He did not voice any other demands.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) reported, "Oleksander Kolchenko, the already desperately thin Crimean civic activist imprisoned in the same Russian show trial as filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has declared a hunger strike, demanding that Russia free Sentsov.

Tomorrow the global action #SaveOlegSentsov starts. The organizers say that on June 1 and 2 they will "expose a red card to the Putin regime," which illegally keeps people behind the bars.

Related: Apologia pro Kolchenko affair

The hunger strike of Oleg Sentsov

August 19, 2015, the North Caucasus Military District Court of the Russian Federation in Rostov-on-Don delivered its verdict in the trial of the so-called “Crimean terrorists”, activists Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko, accused of creating a terrorist organization (a Right Sector cell), preparing and committing terrorist attacks. Despite the apparently political nature of the case, the absence of any direct evidence and international public reaction, the court sentenced Sentsov and Kolchenko to 20 and 10 years respectively in high-security prisons. 

Related: Kolchenko hospitalized with low weight

In March, it became known that state of Sentsov's health has deteriorated. He personally informed on this his cousin; he wrote that his hair and teeth were falling out.

May 14, 2018, Sentsov announced an indefinite hunger strike demanding the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners, kept in Russian prisons.

Related: Kolchenko: fight for Ukraine without slaves and without masters

He has been preparing for the strike for 1.5 months. He refused from obtaining the food parcels. He has completely switched to the prison nutrition and then has been gradually reducing its consumption. His hunger strike takes place against a background of heart disease and rheumatism of the lower limbs. Attorney Dmitry Dindze said that he offered Sentsov other options for legal action, but he refused and decided to act in a radical way.

Now Sentsov is kept in solitary confinement in Labytnangi colony, Russian Arctic. The lawyer does not rule out that the director will be sent to a psychiatric examination and force-fed. According to the lawyer, Sentsov looked very thin during their last meeting.

May 28, the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia announced that Sentsov had agreed to undertake supporting therapy after two weeks of his hunger strike. Soon the lawyer confirmed this information, noting that the prisoner's condition is stable. Other details the defender promised to find out on June 4 during a personal visit to Sentsov.

Kolchenko's intentions to join the hunger strike became known on May 22 from his lawyer Svitlana Sidorkina.

Related: Russia again refuses to repatriate Ukrainians Sentsov, Kolchenko

Kolchenko wrote a corresponding letter to Sentsov, but fearing that he would be censored, he described the contents of the message to the lawyer. According to Sidorkina, Kolchenko is convinced that the means of a hunger strike could be effective only if the state values its reputation. But in the case of Sentsov, Russia might ignore starvation and use compulsory feeding or appoint a psychiatric examination.

Then the defender has stressed that Kolchenko did not discourage Sentsov from his idea because he knows his persistence. Kolchenko is deeply concerned about Sentsov’s health though. And although he did not agree with Oleg's method, he respected his position and was "ready to join him if necessary."

The lawyer tried to persuade Kolchenko not to do it, referring to health problems. However, as we see, Olexandr's intentions were quite serious. And today he has joined Oleg.

The hunger strike of Volodymyr Balukh

December 2016, Russian FSB has detained Crimean Volodymyr Balukh fol alleged keeping 90 cartridges and several TNT checkers in the attic of his house.

Volodymyr Balukh

The defense of Balukh and human rights activists claimed that he became a victim of repression for his pro-Ukrainian position: he hung Ukrainian flag on his door.

Related: Fourth anniversary of Sentsov-Kolchenko affair: The prisoners are still there

However, the court in annexed Crimea found him guilty of possession of ammunition and sentenced him to 3 years and 5 months imprisonment in a colony, as well as a fine of 10 thousand rubles ($ 180).

Subsequently, another case was brought against him about the alleged beating of the head of the temporary detention facility Valeriy Tkachenko. Balukh and his defense claimed that Tkachenko had attacked him.

March 19, the court voiced Baluch as a preventive measure in the form of detention until June 19, 2018. On the same day, the prisoner went on a hunger strike.

May 15, he explained that the hunger strike is a manifestation of his "personal contempt for the occupation regime and its pathetic attempts to deprive in any way the freedom of all those who disagree with the FSB-related "ideology of man-hatred."

Related: Court refuses to commute penalty of illegally detained in Crimea Ukrainian Balukh

Balukh said that he was bullied and beaten to stop the hunger strike, but eventually, they resigned to his right to protest.

"During the whole stay in captivity, I did not even try the thin broth and will not do it under any circumstances," Balukh claimed.

On the 25th day of the hunger strike, he switched to another protest regime: every day he consumes two glasses of oat tea, 50-70 g of breadcrumbs and drinks tea with honey. He is not going to stop the hunger strike.

Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova visited Balukh. She states that he does not go hungry, but nourishes according to a "special scheme". "He looks quite good as for a starving person," she added.

At the same time, human rights activists report a deterioration in Baluch's health.

Ukrainian pilot and People's Deputy Nadia Savchenko has been also starving several times on the territory of the Russian Federation. She was abducted in July 2014 and was harassed in a Russian prison until she was exchanged for two Russians on May 25, 2015. Savchenko even declared a dry hunger strike, which lasted for six days. Now the People's Deputy is kept in Ukrainian prison and only yesterday agreed to interrupt her 69-day hunger strike for taking the lie detector test.

What are the consequences for a human body hunger strike?

According to doctors, a healthy person can fast for a maximum of three months (without water and food - up to 10 days). However, this process is very dangerous.

In case of the prolonged starvation, the body is forced to consume its internal resources, that is, to extract nutrients from its own tissues. In addition to fat, it begins to spend protein. As a result, the muscles weaken, the elasticity of the skin decreases, and the wrinkles appear.

Related: Ukraine's Foreign Ministry claims threat to lives of Balukh, Sentsov

The person is tormented by a constant feeling of hunger; he suffers from abdominal pain, nausea, and growing weakness. Immunity of the person reduces, infectious and catarrhal diseases occur more often, chronic diseases become aggravated, tumors often develop, the hormonal background changes too. There are digestive and nervous disorders, mental faculties. Blood circulation, vascular tone, and electrolyte balance become violated, which causes fainting and convulsions of the extremities.

However, if the hunger strike is inevitable, you should pay attention to several important points. Properly prepare for it (do not eat certain time of flour products, milk, meat, eggs, cheese, give up alcohol and cigarettes in advance), during the strike, try not to be tired too much and drink a lot of water (better with honey). Stop your hunger strike gradually (first drink juices, grated vegetables, and fruits, then beans, nuts, cereals, bread).

It is also necessary to take into account diseases, which are incompatible with the hunger strike (for example, cancers, vascular diseases, kidney disorders, tuberculosis, liver cirrhosis, mental disorders, etc.).

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