But there is hope. Thanks to international pressure, four prisoners have been freed.
I met one of them, Gennadii Afanasiev, on the Maidan on a hot day last August. We gathered to demand the release of Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov, who had been detained by the FSB, denied access to critical medications, and placed in a psychiatric hospital, where he was subject to Soviet-style “punitive psychiatry.”
Mr. Afanasiev had been released after two years of imprisonment only two months earlier, but his patriotism and dedication to Ukraine never faltered. He was there on the Maidan, working hard to secure the release of one of his fellow citizens. Thanks to Mr. Afanasiev and many others, Mr. Umerov was released from the hospital.
In order to harness the collective energy of Mr. Afanasiev and other activists who have dedicated their time to the release of Ukrainian citizens held by Russia, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs founded a Public Platform for the release of political prisoners. It includes Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, other representatives from government, Parliament and civil society, including former political prisoners.
We at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to fight for all those illegally detained and sentenced in Russia. We invite the international community – diplomats, politicians, celebrities, and ordinary people, whose support means so much to those imprisoned – to join us and increase pressure on Kremlin to end this barbaric and unlawful practice. Only by unifying our actions can we end Russia’s use of Ukrainian citizens as political pawns and its complete and blatant disregard for human life.