(New York, NY) – Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, detained in Moscow in 2016 on trumped-up charges of espionage, has been released from a Russian prison as part of a broader prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia. Sushchenko was repeatedly denied due process, psychologically tortured, and held for nearly three years after spending a career investigating and criticizing Russian propaganda.

“Roman’s release today is a welcome relief for writers, journalists, artists, and free speech advocates everywhere,” said Polina Kovaleva, Eurasia project director at PEN America. “Having long been denied his basic human rights, Sushchenko is now free. But his case stands as an example of how the Russian state continues to brutalize any and all who challenge its version of global events. His imprisonment and persecution were a travesty, a caricature of justice visited on a journalist and artist who should’ve never found himself inside the grim walls of a prison cell for three years. Today we celebrate that he can return to his family and his work.”

Russian officials detained Sushchenko, an employee of Ukrainian news service Ukrinform based in France, on a visit to Moscow in 2016. In the months prior, he and others had repeatedly reported on Russian attempts to spread propaganda on French television. He and other critics pointed to the woefully inaccurate Russian documentary Ukraine: Masks of the Revolution, which aired on French TV. Upon his arrest, Russia’s security services accused Sushchenko of being a Ukrainian intelligence agent, although no evidence of those accusations was ever revealed.

Sushchenko‘s release Saturday came as Russian officials also sent home Ukrainian filmmaker and 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honoree Oleg Sentsov

“Russia’s security services falsely painted Sushchenko as an intelligence plant, a spurious accusation they have repeatedly lodged against reporters who refuse to accept the Kremlin’s party line,” said PEN America’s Kovaleva. “There’s no doubt this is part of a larger worldwide phenomenon of authoritarian leaders — not just in Russia — tarring journalists as enemies of the people. Sushchenko has escaped further persecution, but other writers, journalists, and activists continue to be unjustly punished for exercising the universal right to free expression.”

Read more about Sushcheko’s case and PEN America’s ongoing work defending free expression in Russia.


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: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892