Sakharov Prize 2018 goes to Oleg Sentsov

Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov was the winner of the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thougth in 2018. The award ceremony was held in Strasbourg on 12 December 2018.

Sentsov was chosen from a shortlist of three by the Parliament’s political group leaders on 25 October.

Announcing the laureate, Parliament President AntonioTajani said: "Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the film maker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world.

"By awarding him the Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament is expressing its solidarity with him and his cause. We ask that he be released immediately. His struggle reminds us that it is our duty to defend human rights everywhere in the world and in all circumstances."

2018 Sakharov Prize laureate is Oleg Sentsov ©Sergei Venyavsky/Getty Images
Oleg Sentsov © Sergei Venyavsky/Getty Images

About Oleg Sentsov

Sentsov is a Ukrainian film director, sentenced to 20 years in prison for “plotting terrorist acts” against the Russian “de facto” rule in Crimea. Amnesty International has described the court process as “an unfair trial before a military court”.

He has become a symbol for the approximately 70 Ukrainian citizens illegally arrested and given long prison sentences by the Russian occupation forces in the Crimean peninsula.

Sentsov was on hunger strike from mid-May until 6 October, when he ended it because of the threat of being force-fed.

He was released from prison on 7 September 2019 as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.

David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, welcomed his release: "It is with relief and profound joy that I learnt today about the release of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. I salute him as a man of courage and determination, who resisted injustice with dignity and stood up for democracy, the rule of law and human rights."

Award ceremony

The prize, consisting of a certificate and €50,000 were awarded during a ceremony in the Parliament in Strasbourg on 12 December 2018.

The finalists

Sentsov was among three finalists for the 2018 Sakharov Prize. Find out more about the other finalists - the NGOs protecting human rights and saving migrant lives across the Mediterranean Sea and Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of Hirak, a mass protest movement in the Rif region in Morocco - in this article.

They were also invited to December's award ceremony.

More on the Sakharov Prize

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded annually since 1988 to individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the prize.

Last year the prize was awarded to the Democratic Opposition in Venezuela.

Sakharove Prize - How is the laureate chosen?
Find out how the Sakharov Prize laureate gets chosen in our infographic