(NEW YORK)—PEN America today condemned a five-year prison sentence imposed on Russian performance artist Pavel Krisevich for a June 2021 performance protest in Red Square. PEN America called on the international community to speak out in support of Krisevich’s right to free expression. His works of protest art have long been targeted by Russian authorities.

Krisevich, who was sentenced on Tuesday, has been in pre-trial detention since his performance in 2021 in which he shot a pistol with blanks into the air in a show of support for political prisoners. He concluded his performance by imitating shooting himself in an act of mock-suicide. He had been arrested in 2020 for holding a mock-crucifixion in front of the FSB headquarters, an act that also resulted in expulsion from the university where he had been studying.

Krisevich was arrested and prosecuted under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code and charged with “hooliganism.” The five-year sentence was requested by  prosecutors.

“Our hearts are with Pavel Krisevich, his friends and family during this difficult time. This is an appallingly unjust criminal sentence. Krisevich’s case demonstrates how Moscow’s complete and continued criminalization of opposing opinion means that artists who seek to express their opinions freely will inevitably be treated as criminals,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC).

“There is great irony when a one-man protest against political imprisonment becomes itself a case of an artist wrongfully incarcerated,” said Polina Sadovskaya, director of Eurasia programs at PEN America. “Yet irony of this very sort has become so common across the region. Artists and writers try tirelessly to protest deteriorating human rights and rising authoritarianism in Russia. The international community must do all it can to ensure that these voices–voices like Pavel Krisevich–are not silenced.” 

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.

About the Artists at Risk Connection

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. ARC recently established a grantmaking initiative for at-risk visual artists from Ukraine and Eurasia, including an emergency fund for basic living expenses as well as a resilience grant to help artists sustain their creative practices. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.

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