The European Parliament is awarding imprisoned Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov with the 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Sentsov's cousin Natalya Kaplan and his lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, accept the prize in the filmmaker's name at a ceremony in Strasbourg today, December 12.
Sentsov, the renowned Ukrainian film director has been imprisoned in Russia since opposing Moscow's takeover of his native Crimea in 2014; he was sentenced to two decades in a Russian prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks in Crimea.
Oleg Sentsov announced a hunger strike in May 2018, demanding to release him and the rest of Ukrainian political prisoners illegally kept by the Kremlin. Sentsov has already survived four health crises.
Oleg Sentsov stopped the hunger strike on the 144th day. The Russian side officially announced the statement by Sentsov but did not reveal the reason. According to the lawyer of Sentsov, the decision to end the hunger strike was made after Russian doctors and penitentiary facility workers issued an ultimatum to Sentsov, suggesting that he either voluntarily stops the hunger strike or agrees to be force-fed.
The other two finalists for this year's prize were Moroccan activist Nasser Zefzafi and a group of 11 migrant rescue organizations.
The EU's legislature established the prize in 1988. The first laureate was South Africa's Nelson Mandela.
In recent years, the award went to the Venezuelan opposition, two survivors of sexual slavery by the Islamic State and the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.