Concerning news of 2017 PEN America/ Barbey Freedom to Write Award honoree Oleg Sentsov‘s move to a high-security prison is a sinister turn in the Russian government’s efforts to punish free expression, PEN America said in a statement today.

On October 13, Sentsov’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze told Interfax that Sentsov has been transferred to a high-security correctional facility near the town of Labytnangi, in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. Correctional Facility No. 8, dubbed “Polar Bear,” is home to inmates convicted of serious crimes. It is unclear whether he will remain there, and for how long. Sentsov has been serving a 20-year sentence on charges of terrorism since August 2015. Earlier this month, Sentsov smuggled a letter out of prison indicating that he was being transferred to a then-unknown destination.

“Upon his transfer to a high-security facility for those convicted of serious offenses, let us remember that Oleg Sentsov has yet to commit a crime,” said PEN America Free Expression Programs Manager for Eurasia Polina Kovaleva. “The Russian government has only proven its commitment to punish those who dare to criticize it with this sinister move. Oleg Sentsov must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

PEN America continues to remain concerned about the deteriorating conditions for free expression in Russia, particularly for those in creative and artistic professions, even as members of the international community work to shed light on the cases of those who fall afoul of the Russian government, including Oleg Sentsov and Kirill Serebrennikov.

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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.

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Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: agasparian@pen.org, +1.646.981.0685