(NEW YORK)– PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) today condemned the arrests of Russian poets and activists Artem Kamardin, Nikolay Dayneko, and Egor Shtovba for their participation in an anti-war poetry event. The poets were accused of “inciting hatred with the threat of violence,” which carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison, and will be detained until the end of November.

Dayneko and Shtovba were arrested at the poetry reading on Sunday dedicated to opposing the recently announced “partial military mobilization” laws in Russia, which could force up to 300,000 reserve forces to join Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  The event took place in Moscow at the monument of Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Police raided the event and detained several participants, among them Dayneko and Shtovba. A day later, the Russian police reportedly conducted a raid on Artem Kamardin’s home, questioned him about the reading, then severely beat Kamardin, his girlfriend Alexandra Popova, and their roommate, Alexander Menyukov. Kamardin’s attorney reported that the police also raped Kamardin in his home. After this, Kamardin was forced to film an on-camera apology for reputed anti-war statements he reportedly made at the reading.

All three poets had their first court appearance on Wednesday and will remain in detention until the end of November under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection, said: “Our hearts are with Artem Kamardin, Nikolay Dayneko, and Egor Shtovba and their friends and families during this difficult time, as they currently face a potential, unjust sentence of up to six years in retaliation for their artistic activities and for expressing their opinions. Simply put, the case against them is built on a system of criminal penalties that are flatly inconsistent with international guarantees of human rights. Furthermore, this case marks a continuation of Moscow’s aggressive and pernicious efforts to crack down on any dissenting speech or artistic expression regarding the war.”

Polina Sadovskaya, director of Eurasia Programs at PEN America, said: “The treatment of Kamardin is horrifying proof of the crackdown across Russia right now. Sexual violence must never be used against any individual, and especially not as punishment for political expression. As the scale of wartime repressions in Russia continues to escalate, we call for the immediate release of these three poets and urge the Russian authorities to refrain from this institutional assault against artistic and political expression. PEN America and our colleagues around the world will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

PEN America follows the developments in Russia concerning freedom of expression and artistic freedom through its Eurasia program and leads the Artists at Risk Connection, a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057