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Ukraine hunger-striker’s mother urges Putin to free son

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The mother of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who has refused food for 60 days, has appealed to President Vladimir Putin to free her son as hopes faded that the Kremlin critic would get out of a Russian prison alive.

Lyudmila Sentsova’s letter to Putin was released on Friday, the day the hunger-striking Ukrainian activist and filmmaker turned 42 in a jail in the far north of Russia.

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“I ask you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, to show mercy and grant pardon to Oleg Sentsov, do not destroy his life and that of his loved ones. We are waiting for him at home,” she said in the letter dated June 22.

“He has already served four years. His children are waiting for him. His younger son suffers from autism. They are feeling bad without him. They will never be happy without their father.”

Sentsov is serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted on terrorism charges over an alleged arson plot in Crimea. His supporters say the case was trumped up.

Sentsova said her son had not killed anyone, describing him as a man interested in film-making.

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The vocal Kremlin critic was detained in Crimea in 2014 after Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine.

Western governments and celebrities have repeatedly urged the Kremlin to release Sentsov. Prominent Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov asked the Pope to intervene.

But Moscow has shown little enthusiasm for letting the anti-Kremlin filmmaker go and hopes are quickly fading that he will be released by the time the World Cup Russia is hosting ends on Sunday.

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The Kremlin has said Sentsov should himself ask Putin for a pardon for his request to be considered. Sentsov has refused to do so.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Facebook his government would keep up pressure on the Russian authorities in a bid to free Sentsov and dozens of other Ukrainians it considers political prisoners.

The director and author launched his hunger strike on May 14 to demand Russia release Ukrainian political prisoners.

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He has timed his protest to coincide with the World Cup to attract maximum attention to the plight of Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia.

Sentsov has lost around 15 kilogrammes, being sustained by water and a glucose drip, his relatives say.

On average, humans can survive without food for about eight weeks.

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Russian activists who staged pickets in Sentsov’s support have been harrassed by the authorities.

On Friday, an activist was sentenced to five days in jail for demonstrating in his support in the second city of Saint Petersburg, officials said.

Sentsov is best known for his film “Gamer”, which screened to critical acclaim at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2012.

Supporters say Russia wanted to make an example of him with the stiff sentence on charges of masterminding arson attacks, which he denies.

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Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe succinctly debunks Jim Jordan’s defense of Trump

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Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe debunked the key defense of President Donald Trump that was offered by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) during the first televised hearing in the impeachment inquiry.

Jordan did not address the fact President Donald Trump solicited foreign election interference in violation of federal law, but attempted to debunk the additional charge that there was extortion/bribery.

The Ohio Republican argued that there could not have been a quid pro quo because the aid was eventually released.

But Tribe, who has taught at Harvard Law for half a century and argued three dozen cases before the United States Supreme Court, fact-checked the congressman who never passed the bar exam.

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Here are 5 wild moments from the House’s first public impeachment hearing

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The impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump entered a new phase on Wednesday morning, when the first public testimony was presented. The two witnesses presented were Ambassador William B. Taylor (who had been in charge of Ukraine-related matters under the Trump Administration) and U.S. State Department diplomat George P. Kent (deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs). And while House Republicans aggressively defended Trump during Taylor and Kent’s testimony, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and other Democrats used Taylor and Kent’s testimony to show why Trump deserves impeachment.

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Bill Taylor fires back at Jim Jordan: ‘I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything’

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Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, clashed with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Wednesday.

At the first public hearing on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Jordan accused Taylor of being the "star witness" for Democratic lawmakers.

"I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything," Taylor replied after Jordan's time expired.

"They do!" Jordan erupted, motioning toward the Democratic Party's side of the room.

"Please don’t interrupt the witness," Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) cautioned.

"I was clear about that I am not here to take one side or another or to advocate any particular outcome, and let many restate that," Taylor insisted. "And the main thing is that my understanding is only coming from people that I talked to."

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