NEW YORK—New and extended sanction against Russia, among the targets of which are several prominent Russian publishing houses and online bookstores, are further troubling encroachments on intellectual freedom and the free exchange of ideas in Ukraine, PEN America said in a statement today.

On March 19, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko extended previous sanctions against Russia and enacted new ones, covering over 294 legal entities and 848 individuals accused of various anti-Ukrainian activities. Among the Russian publishers and online bookstores included in the sanctions for “distributing anti-Ukrainian content” are Eskmo, AST, Veche, Knizhny Mir, Tsentrpoligraf, Yauza, Yauza-Press, Piter, LitRes, Labyrinth, and others. The scope of these sanctions effectively constitutes a ban on importing books from Russia into Ukraine. Sources report varying percentages of Russian readers in Ukraine, from 28.3% to 60%. The sanctions will not only limit these readers’ right to information and access to Russian authors, but also limit their access to the vast amount of foreign literature that is translated into Russian and published in Russia, producing a chilling effect in the Ukrainian literary sphere as a whole.

Restrictions on the import of Russian books were first introduced in 2017. Under these measures, Russian publishers were required to fulfill detailed requirements to import books into Ukraine, which would then undergo extensive review by Ukrainian authorities. Ukrainian readers thus had some access to these books, although with significant delay. The new sanctions aim to eliminate this access altogether. In 2017, PEN America also spoke out against the Ukrainian government’s blocking of popular Russian social networks, email services, and search engines.

“These new sanctions violate Ukrainians’ right to intellectual freedom, and seek to sever Ukraine from the global literary and academic community,” says Polina Kovaleva, Eurasia Project Director at PEN America. “They are part of a pattern of actions by the Ukrainian government taken in the name of national security, which in fact undermine intellectual progress and freedom of expression. They will also undermine Ukraine’s compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works, to which Ukraine acceded in 1995, as the restrictions on book imports will inevitably result in massive online piracy of literature unavailable for purchase, to the detriment of authors around the world.”

Alongside the RBU and PEN Moscow, PEN America appeals to UNESCO, the International Publishers Association (IPA), the World Association of News and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), and other international publishing organizations to use their authority to call on Ukrainian authorities to lift these sanctions.


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: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]