(NEW YORK) – The recent disappearance of Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Vakulenko at the hands of Russian occupying forces is horrifying and unjust, PEN America stated, and called for his immediate release and an investigation into the circumstances of his kidnapping. 

Vakulenko and his son Vitalii have not been seen or heard from since late March, when they disappeared from their home in the village of Kapytolivka. Near the larger city of Izium, Kapytolivka is in Kharkiv Oblast, which continues to be under siege by Russian forces. 

The Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office continues to investigate Vakulenko’s disappearance. However, Kapytolivka is currently occupied by Russian troops and cannot be reached by Ukrainian officials, limiting the extent of the police’s investigative power. Nonetheless, the office has stated that Vaklenko was indeed abducted by Russian occupiers. 

“The kidnapping of Volodymyr Vakulenko and his son Vitalii is simply horrific,” said Polina Sadovskaya, director of Eurasia Programs at PEN America. “Russian occupying forces are punishing Vakulenko for acting within the bounds of his right to self-expression; that they would also take his son is upsetting beyond words. It is crucial that the investigation into Vakulenko’s disappearance continues. The risks faced by writers in Ukraine are immeasurable, and all possible steps must be taken to protect them and defend their rights.”

Vakulenko is known for both his writing and his civic action. The author of 13 books, Vakulenko publishes under the name Volodymyr Vakulenko-K, and created his own genre, which he calls “contrliterature,” blending postmodernism, neoclassicism, and absurdism. He was wounded during his participation in the Maidan Revolution; given Vakulenko’s history of volunteering for the Ukrainian army, his ex-wife Iryna Novitska suspects that Russian occupying forces are targeting Vakulenko for his pro-Ukrainian activities.  

More information about free expression in Ukraine is available here

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, STrimel@PEN.org