Ukraine: Director in prisoner swap backs jailed Russians

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and France's President Emmanuel Macron met in August

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and France's President Emmanuel Macron met in August

Ukrainian film director and activist Oleg Sentsov, who was freed in a high-profile Ukraine-Russia prisoner swap, demanded justice for all suspected political prisoners detained in Russia.

Sentsov was the most high-profile prisoner to be swapped on Saturday among 35 Ukrainian detainees to return home in exchange for an equal number of prisoners wanted by Russian Federation.

But there have been signs of a modest thaw in the standoff, and on Saturday Russia and Ukraine swapped dozens of prisoners in a carefully-negotiated rapprochement that drew Western praise.

Speaking at his first news conference, Senstov said he would work to get other Ukrainians out of prison, as well as Russians who were jailed for opposing their government. The European Union said the case was "in breach of worldwide law" and the U.S. State Department called it a "clear miscarriage of justice".

But France's diplomatic overture to Russian Federation is likely to create tensions with some other European Union countries such as Poland and the Baltic states, which feel it is wrong to start re-engaging with Russian Federation while it still controls Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine remains unresolved. The next step could be a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. In his answers, he indicated he did not hold all Russians responsible for his experience.

Sentsov said he intends to use his newfound freedom to publish a book, make more films and continue advocating the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war and Russian political prisoners. He said that Russians "fighting for themselves, for a free Russia and for Ukraine" are also "true brothers" and equally in need of help.

Sentsov said he didn't feel any excitement until he hugged his daughter after getting off the plane that brought him home. He spent most of his jail time writing letters, books, a daily journal and a screenplay.

"In jail, receiving letters is very important", he said.

"You can survive without food for a day".

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