(New York, NY) – Russian feminist artist and LGBTQIA+ activist Yulia Tsvetkova announced a hunger strike earlier this week to demand that her trial, which began last month, be opened to the public. Tsvetkova currently faces up to six years in prison on charges of disseminating pornography for sharing abstract artwork of nude women and female genitalia. According to social media posts from her family, Russian authorities closed the trial because “intimate” and “pornographic” materials might be examined. In response to the news of Tsvetkova’s strike, Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, said the following:

“Authorities have pursued farcical cases against Tsvetkova for nearly two years, ever since she was first fined for violating Russia’s law against ‘gay propaganda’ and later placed under house arrest in November 2019. Now she is essentially being subjected to a secret trial simply for sharing artwork that celebrated female and queer identities and encouraged body positivity. It is heart-wrenching that Tsvetkova has been forced to put her health and well-being on the line simply to gain a modicum of justice. We condemn the Russian authorities’ choice to hold her trial behind closed doors, and renew our call for them to immediately drop all charges against her.”

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 released A Safety Guide For Artists, a resource that offers practical strategies to help artists understand, navigate, and overcome risk, and features an interview with Yulia Tsvetkova about her case and the state of free expression in Russia. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.