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Ukraine official denied access to hunger-striker in Russian jail

June 16, 2018

KIEV: Kiev protested to Moscow on Friday after a Ukrainian rights official was barred from visiting hunger-striking filmmaker Oleg Sentsov in a Russian prison amid growing concerns for his life.

The 41-year-old director has refused food since May 14 to demand Moscow release all Ukrainian political prisoners, timing his high-profile protest to coincide with the month-long World Cup in Russia.

As the football extravaganza thrust Moscow to the forefront of global attention, calls are multiplying to let Sentsov go, with US author Stephen King joining in.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry accused Russia of "insidious steps" after Kiev’s top rights official arrived at Sentsov’s high-security prison in the town of Labytnangi on the Arctic Yamal peninsula, but was denied access to him.

"Oleg is starving", Ukrainian foreign ministry spokeswoman Mariana Betsa said on Twitter. "We are protesting".