Ukrainian Activist Kolchenko Stops Hunger Strike In Russian Prison

Ukrainian activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, who is serving 10-year prison term in Russia on extremism charges that he and his supporters consider politically motivated, has stopped his hunger strike, his lawyer says.

Andrei Lepyokhin wrote on Facebook on June 7 that due to health issues, Kolchenko decided to stop the hunger strike that he started on May 31.

Lepyokhin also posted a letter that he said was written by his client, in which Kolchenko wrote that he "overestimated" his abilities and "turned out to be weaker" than he thought.

The letter said Kolchenko hoped that his former co-defendant, Oleh Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker who is on hunger strike in a Russian prison in far-northern Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region, "will not be angry with me for giving up so quickly."

Lepyokhin wrote that his client had lost weight and now weighed 54 kilograms.

Sentsov has been on hunger strike since May 14, demanding that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners.

Kolchenko and Sentsov were arrested in Crimea in 2014, after Russia seized the Ukrainian region. A Russian court in 2015 convicted them of planning to commit terrorist acts. Both men deny the accusations.

Western governments and rights organizations have called for Sentsov and Kolchenko to be released, and the Russian human rights group Memorial considers them political prisoners.

On June 6, the British Foreign Office expressed concern over the welfare of Kolchenko, Sentsov and two other Ukrainian nationals who were conducting hunger strikes in Russian custody to protest Moscow's detention of Ukrainian political prisoners.