Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov was awarded the French Legion of Honor. The award was presented to him by Ambassador Etienne de Ponsin on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron.
“I have long wanted to tell you how much my country admires your courage and commitment to the ideals of freedom. You have become a symbol of resistance to injustice. Your entry into the Ukrainian army is a symbol of what the Western world admires: the whole nation opposes aggression, the whole nation, in all its diversity, unites in the struggle for justice, independence and freedom,” the ambassador said.
The Order of the Legion of Honor was also awarded to the Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabuzhko.
In August 2015, the North Caucasian District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don found Oleg Sentsov guilty of organizing a terrorist community and sentenced him to 20 years in a strict regime colony. Activist Oleksandr Kolchenko was convicted in the same case and sentenced to 10 years.
Sentsov and Kolchenko were accused of setting fire to the offices of the Russian Community of Crimea organization and the office of United Russia in Simferopol in the spring of 2014, shortly after the annexation of Crimea. In addition, Sentsov and other suspects were allegedly preparing to blow up a monument to Lenin, the investigation claimed.
On September 7, 2019, Oleg Sentsov returned to Ukraine as part of the 35-35 exchange of detainees between Kiev and Moscow. In a speech in the European Parliament at the presentation of the Sakharov Prize, Sentsov urged not to trust the President of the Russian Federation and "not to extend the hand of friendship to Putin over the heads of Ukrainians."