Tusk asks Trump to discuss release of Ukrainian prisoners with Putin

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BRUSSELS — The European Union wants U.S. President Donald Trump to press for the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held by Russia, President of the European Council Donald Tusk has said,

Speaking at a press conference after the EU-Ukraine Summit in Brussels on July 9, Tusk said he would meet with U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland later in the day and ask him to pass on the EU’s request to Trump.

Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16. Russia is holding over 60 Ukrainians as political prisoners, including filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and journalist Roman Suschenko.

“I will keep calling for the release of all political prisoners in Russia, including film maker Oleg Sentsov,” Tusk said. “I tried to convince our partners during our G7 meeting in Canada to react, and I hope that, I’m not sure, but I hope, that this question will be part of President Trump’s agenda during his meeting with President Putin in Helsinki. I’ll meet today, just after our meeting here, with the new U.S. ambassador to the EU and I’ll ask him to send this message to his president.”

Sondland took up his post on June 28. The position had been vacant since Jan. 20, 2017.

Referring to the 2018 soccer World Cup currently being held in Russia, Tusk said the EU should remind the Russian leadership that the “Russia’s image does not depend on organizing a football championship.”

“No one should forget what really matters. One of the most important element of our relations with Russia must be a decision of the Russian authorities to release all political prisoners,” he said.

In the summit’s joint communiqué, EU and Ukrainian leaders called for “the immediate release of all illegally detained and imprisoned Ukrainian citizens in the Crimean peninsula and in Russia, including Crimean Tatar activists, as well as Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Stanislav Klykh, Oleksandr Shumkov and Roman Suschenko.”

This is the first time Suschenko’s name has been included in such a document. The journalist was jailed for 12 years on June 4 by a Russian court on spying charges. Ukraine says the charges were fabricated and has called for Suschenko’s release.

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