2022 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award Honoree: Vladyslav Yesypenko
Ukrainian freelance journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation on March 10, 2021, in Russian-occupied Crimea. Immediately before his detention, Yesypenko had been attending an event in honor of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Simferopol. Working with Krym.Realii Project, a Crimean radio access program and news source run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Yesypenko’s work has covered ordinary social issues affecting residents of Crimea and has delved into the profound impacts of Russian occupation on the lives of Crimean Tatars across the peninsula. Accused of baseless charges of espionage and the illegal manufacture of firearms, Yesypenko spent nearly a year in pre-trial detention, and in February 2022, he was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison after a trial marred by systemic due process violations. Leading up to his conviction, he was tortured with electric shocks, forced to confess, and threatened with death. On November 15, 2021, PEN America highlighted the injustice of his detention at an Empty Chair Day action, also known as the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. In honoring Vladyslav Yesypenko with the 2022 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, PEN America recognizes his courage in continuing to tell the stories of Ukrainians who have faced years of Russian occupation, and we seek to illuminate the dangers the Russian invasion of Ukraine poses to journalists, writers, and freedom of expression itself.