I'm with the Banned

I’m with the Banned is Belarus Free Theatre's artist led campaign bringing together people who are free to express themselves, in solidarity with artists and activists banned, censored and imprisoned in Belarus and Russia and wherever freedom of expression and justice are threatened by oppressive regimes.

Ai Weiwei, the world famous Chinese artist, gave us the symbol for our campaign - the one finger salute - raised in defiance against censorship and injustice.

I'm with the Banned joins LetMyPeopleGo’s call for the immediate release of the Kremlin Hostages who remain under Russian incarceration.

You can help by sending a postcard to prisoners including Oleg Sentsov and by sharing the following photos and videos calling for the release of Oleg Sentsov. On social media use #ImwiththeBanned.


Belarus Free Theatre - the foremost refugee-led theatre company in the UK and the only theatre in Europe banned by its government on political grounds – is delighted to share news of the release of dissident filmmaker, Oleg Sentstov, on Saturday 7th September 2019.

Belarus Free Theatre would like to thank everybody who has supported our campaign to Free Oleg Senstov in which we played a small part in raising awareness of his plight on the global stage, working alongside human rights organisations including Amnesty International and PEN America.

Senstov is one of 35 Ukrainians released as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia, and while we believe this to be a positive move toward a resolution of the illegal occupation of Crimea and the war on Ukraine’s eastern border, a number of prisoners remain in Russian custody and the political situation uncertain. As long as we continue to witness abuses of power and human rights, we at Belarus Free Theatre will continue to stage our protests and resistance through our trademark acts of "artivism".

Belarus Free Theatre's campaign to free Oleg Senstov

On October 10 2016, Belarus Free Theatre projected Ai Weiwei's symbol of freedom of expression onto five iconic buildings across London to highlight the case of Oleg Sentsov, the popular film director and pro-Ukrainian activist serving a 20-year prison sentence in Russia for a crime he did not commit.

Belarus Free Theatre releases video appeal calling for the release of Oleg Sentsov, together with actor Simon Callow; Belarusian Nobel Laureate for Literature, Svetlana Alexievich; Polish film director and chair of European Film Academy, Agnieszka Holland; actor Will Attenborough; Ukrainian film director Yuri Khaschevatsky; fashion designer and activist, Vivienne Westwood.

Video appeal released from British film-maker Lord Puttnam on behalf of the European Film Academy, together with Belarus Free Theatre, calling for the release of Oleg Sentsov.

A message from Natalia Kaplan, Oleg Sentsov's cousin, about his current situation in jail and the urgency of the call for his immediate release and the release of all Kremlin Hostages.

On 10 October we hosted a special and urgent event at the House of Commons Freedom of Expression in the Ukraine with activists, artists and campaigners from around the world.

Luke Harding publishes Oleg Sentsov's letter, smuggled out of prison, in the Guardian.

Belarus Free Theatre ensemble, Natalia Kaplan, Amnesty International and audience members demand the immediate release of Kremlin Hostages.

Natalia Kaplan, Oleg Sentsov's cousin who leading the Free Oleg campaign, is interviewed while visiting London to speak at our Burning Doors platform discussion on the Kremlin Hostages:


Sending letters or postcards is a simple and extremely effective way to help prisoners. For them, our letters are a breath of freedom and communication with the outside world. For prison officers, they are a reminder that the prisoners are not forgotten, and there are people fighting for their freedom.

Follow these instructions to ensure your postcards and letters are not censored:

1) Write in Russian - using Google translate for a simple message will do. This makes it less likely for the postcard to be censored by prison administration;
2) Use neutral language and avoid political topics;
4) Put the postcard in an envelope. If you want a reply, also include a self-addressed envelope and an extra piece of paper - prisoners are often short of stationery.
5) Write the full name, address, and year of birth of the 'prisoner' on the envelope - download names and addresses.

We do not recommend sending parcels as it might deny their relatives the opportunity to send family parcels. In the majority of cases, prisoners are limited to only one or two parcels a year.

Image designed by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei for BFT's I'm with the Banned campaign.

Another way to send letters is via Rosuznik website. It is a Russian website where you can send electronic letters to prisoners in Russia (not Crimea). You just need to fill in your text in a box on the page and Rosuznik workers will print it out and send it to the prisoner for you.

Who are the Kremlin Hostages?

There are currently 14 Ukrainians behind bars in Russia and 15 in Russian-occupied Crimea serving sentences of up to 22.5 years. They are convicted by the Russian authorities on fabricated charges of ‘genocide’, ‘mass murder’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘espionage’. Some were abducted, most were denied legal and medical rights and the overwhelming majority were tortured. They are the victims of a new wave of Soviet-style show trials, portraying the people of Ukraine as a dangerous enemy to legitimise the Russian annexation of Crimea and the army’s continued participation in armed conflict in the Donbas. Download LetMyPeopleGo's booklet with more information about individual cases.

LetMyPeopleGo was launched in Kiev in 2015 and monitors the cases of politically motivated prosecutions of Ukrainian citizens by the Russian authorities.

How did I'm with the Banned start?

I'm with the Banned campaign was launched in 2015 at a concert in London, headlined by David Gilmour, which brought together musicians and actors from UK, US, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, in a celebration of artists, activists and campaigners who stand up against censorship and injustice: Pussy Riot's Nadia Tolokonnikova, Kim Cattrell, Jeremy Irons, Juliet Stevenson were joined by members of Belarus Free Theatre, Ukrainian rock band - Boombox and Brutto whose members are Belarusian exiles living in Kiev.

“If there is a possibility that we will become the nails in the coffin of a tyrant, I’d like to be one of those nails. Just know that this particular one will not bend.” - Oleg Sentsov

Oleg Sentsov on trail in Russia in 2014.