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Prison Sentence for Freelance Journalist in Crimea is a Gross Violation of Free Expression


(New York, NY) – PEN America today called the sentencing of freelance Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko to six years in prison a gross violation of the right to freedom of expression and called again for his immediate release. 

“The so-called court conducted the trial behind closed doors because they wanted to stop the world witnessing this travesty of justice”, said Polina Sadovskaya, director of Eurasia Programs at PEN America. “Vladyslav Yesypenko is guilty of nothing more than shining a spotlight on the grim political realities of life in Crimea with his fearless reporting. He has been sentenced according to the criminal code of an illegitimate occupying force. Not only that, he has suffered repeated torture at the hands of its representatives. As the Kremlin continues to threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty, the international community must not turn a blind eye to this gross violation of the right to freedom of expression. We call on the international community to stand with us in calling for Yesypenko’s immediate and unconditional release.”

Yesypenko was detained on March 10 in the Russian-occupied Crimea by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation. Yesypenko is a freelance journalist for the Krym.Realii Project, a Crimean radio access program that is part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian language service. Following his detention, Yesypenko was accused of illegally manufacturing firearms after an object resembling an explosive device was allegedly found in his car. On March 16, the FSB claimed that Yesypenko was also engaged in espionage and had been collecting information about Crimea for the Ukrainian security services. He has consistently denied the charges against him.

In November 2021, PEN America dedicated its annual Empty Chair Day action to calling for Yesypenko’s release.

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. pen.org

CONTACT: Suzanne Trimel, communications and media consultant, STrimel@PEN.org


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