NEW YORK—Today’s raid on the home of Russian activist and journalist Zoya Svetova is another attempt by Russian authorities to intimidate and silence independent human right defenders, PEN America said in a statement today.

Russian authorities came to Svetova’s home Tuesday morning and were still searching the premises several hours later. According to her lawyer, Anna Stavitskaya, a local court authorized the search on January 18. Stavitskaya stated that the raid was linked to a continuing investigation into the now-exiled businessman and philanthropist Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other former officials of Yukos, the oil company Khodorkovsky headed before he was arrested and imprisoned by the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin. According to Russian media, today’s raid is one of the series of raids recently conducted against advocacy, political, and media groups previously supported by Khodorkovsky, including his press secretary Olga Pispanen, activists Andrey Pivovarov and Natalya Gryaznova, and journalist Renat Davletgildeev.

Friends and supporters of Svetova gathered at the entrance of her Moscow apartment during the raid, including the renowned novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya. “This brings us back to the times that I don’t really want to remember,” Ulitskaya said, speaking of the raid.

“Accusing a highly respected human rights activist of acting as an accomplice to money laundering is disgraceful not only because there is no basis for the allegation but also because it indicates continuing persecution of human rights defenders in Russia,” said Polina Kovaleva, PEN America’s Free Expression Coordinator for Eurasia.

Svetova, a columnist for The New Times and journalist with Open Russia, is known for her work on prisoners’ rights in Russia. She is also the mother of Timophey, Philipp, and Tikhon Dzyadko, all three of whom are journalists for liberal Russian publications. Tikhon Dzyadko recently participated in a PEN American panel, Red Square, White House: Russian Journalists Reflect on Post-Election 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.

CONTACT: Sarah Edkins, Director of Communications: [email protected], +1.646.779.4830