Oleg Sentsov is the Sakharov Prize 2018 laureate. S&Ds congratulate all the finalists

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European Socialists and Democrats welcomed today’s decision of the Conference of Presidents to awards the Sakharov Prize for 2018 to Oleg Sentsov, Ukrainian filmmaker convicted to 20 years in prison in Russia on absurd terrorism charges. We hope this award will help increase international pressure on the Russian Federation to immediately release him.
This year the S&D Group jointly nominated eleven NGOs that protect human rights and save lives of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean Sea for the 2018 Sakharov Prize. We are proud that our candidate made it to the top three finalists. These NGOs are: Proactiva Open Arms, SOS Mediterranée, Médecins Sans Frontières International, Sea-Watch, Sea Eye, Jugend Rettet, Lifeline, MOAS, Save the Children, PROEM-AID and Boat Refugee Foundation. 
At the initiative of the S&Ds and with the wide support of other political Groups, today the Conference of Presidents took the decision to organise, at the beginning of next year, a big European Parliament conference to recognise the courageous work of the NGOs saving the lives of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.
 
S&D president Udo Bullmann said:
“We welcome the choice of Oleg Sentsov as the Sakharov Prize 2018  laureate. He is a political prisoner who should never have spent a single day in prison. Freedom of speech is an ideal we will always hold dear and we hope this award will steer Russian authorities on the right path - to immediately release him and all journalists wrongfully imprisoned. 
“We want to once again reiterate our support to the NGOs that are devoted to search and rescue missions for migrants and refugees fleeing war and terror trying to reach Europe. They’ve rescued thousands of lives and continue to fill the shameful vacuum left by the inactions of some EU governments.
“I am happy that the European Parliament decided to organise a conference to recognise their courageous work. It will be an occasion to demonstrate our gratitude and solidarity with these NGOs, their workers and volunteers – who, while saving lives, are risking their own. It is also an opportunity to send a strong message opposing those who would rather see these NGOs criminalised.”
 
S&D vice-president and spokesperson for the Sakharov Prize, Elena Valenciano, added:
"Choosing the Sakharov laureate among the finalist is always very difficult. We welcome the fact that Parliament endorsed our proposal to organise a conference focused on the crucial and invaluable work of the NGOs saving lives in the Mediterranean, who were our proposal for this year's Prize.
“It's very important that in the current situation the European Parliament, the institution that represents European citizens, gives a clear signal of support and recognition to those.