In recent years, free expression in Russia and the post-Soviet space has become increasingly restricted. President Vladimir Putin’s political dominance in Russia has led to Kremlin control of virtually all media outlets, and increasingly, of other forms of culture and free expression, including social activism, scholarship, art, and theatre. President Lukashenko and the authorities in Belarus use illegal means of pressure on freedom of speech to stifle the work of local activists. In Ukraine, in the face of an unresolved conflict with Russia, free expression remains in jeopardy in Crimea and Donbas, areas occupied by Russia and Russia-backed separatists. Across the region, arrests, prison sentences, and illegal criminal prosecutions continue against individual creators and thinkers, eroding the state of free expression.

PEN America supports champions of free speech in Russia and throughout the post-Soviet space and actively opposes the persecution of writers, journalists, and artists. The recent release of Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov is just one example of a successful and large-scale PEN America advocacy campaign in the region. PEN America is convinced that, in conditions of constant pressure and restriction of freedoms, only international cooperation and a unified, unwavering stance in defense of free expression can protect members of the creative community and enable them to continue to create and perform works of art.