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Ukraine's Sentsov, Kolchenko Hold First Presser After Release From Russian Custody

Oleh Sentsov talks to journalists in Kyiv on September 10.
Oleh Sentsov talks to journalists in Kyiv on September 10.

KYIV -- Ukrainian director Oleh Sentsov and activist Oleksandr Kolchenko have thanked all those who supported them while they were in Russian custody.

Sentsov and Kolchenko spoke on September 10 at their first news conference in Kyiv following their released in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.

The two countries exchanged a total of 70 prisoners on September 7 -- the first major prisoner swap between the two countries since 2017.

Kolchenko and Sentsov were arrested in the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, after Russia seized the Ukrainian region. A Russian court in 2015 convicted them of planning to commit terrorist acts -- a charge considered by both men and their supporters as politically motivated.

"First of all I would like to express thanks to everyone who supported us and contributed to our liberation," Kolchenko told reporters.

Sentsov thanked those who "supported us and managed to save us," adding that Ukrainians who are still being held in Russia and eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since April 2014, must not be forgotten.

"We have to remember that along with our people there in prisons in Russia there are many Russians who are fighting for themselves, for a free Russia and for our Ukraine," he said.

"They are our brothers and we must not divide them from us," Sentsov said.

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