Oleg Sentsov vows to fight for 'prisoners of the Kremlin'

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

A film director who was included in a major prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia spoke out Tuesday on behalf of suspected political detainees in Russia, promising to advocate for both fellow Ukrainians and Russians behind bars.

"I myself will do everything to raise awareness about this problem, to keep up people's interest in our prisoners and Russian prisoners", he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Oleg Sentsov, 43, was freed after spending five years in a Russian prison colony above the Arctic circle on charges of plotting a terrorist act.

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.

The film director was a strong opponent of Russia's 2014 annexation of his native Crimea but denied the allegations of terrorism. The European Union said that the case was "in breach of global law" and the US 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.

Sentsov stressed that he did not hold all Russian peoples accountable for his experience.

"Apart from our prisoners, there are people in Russian Federation who are fighting for themselves, for a free Russian Federation and for our Ukraine".

"I'll do my best to attract attention to this issue - our political prisoners and Russians - so that it doesn't go away", he said. "These are our true brothers", Sentsov said.

Sentsov made specific reference to Moscow activist Konstantin Kotov, who was sentenced to prison for four years after taking part in numerous unauthorized protest rallies. He spent most of his jail time writing letters, books, a daily journal and a screenplay.

"Every day, I wrote a diary without knowing what would happen to me", he said, adding that letters were also a lifeline and that he had tried to answer as many as possible.

"You can survive without food for a day".