Writers Freed As Part of Ukraine Prisoner Swap
RFE/RL contributors Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk had been held since 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — PEN America welcomed news that two journalists, Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk, were freed as part of a broader prisoner exchange in Ukraine on Sunday. The two were originally detained and held incommunicado by Russia-backed separatists in 2017. PEN America has called for their release throughout their imprisonment.
“It’s been two and a half years since Aseyev and Halaziuk were detained. Their supposed crime: journalism,” said Polina Kovaleva, Eurasia project director for PEN America. “Reporters and writers have been frequent targets of Russia-backed separatists during the brutal conflict in eastern Ukraine. Those separatists’ kangaroo courts and sham proceedings kept these two men from their families and work for far too long. We’re relieved they are heading home.”
In November, PEN America hosted an empty chair rally for Aseyev in New York City, part of a global PEN tradition of reading the works of imprisoned writers. PEN America President Jennifer Egan, alongside writers and journalists Gary Shteyngart, Ann Cooper, Askold Melnyczuk, Tom Kent, Victoria Amelina, and Lev Golinkin, took part in the protest, demanding Aseyev’s release along with other writers and journalists currently persecuted as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
“It’s an incredible feeling to have stood before the Russian Consulate just over a month ago, calling for Aseyev’s release, and to know that he and Halaziuk are free to continue writing, and to be with their loved ones. When writers around the world stand together, we have the power to undermine – and reverse – oppressors’ efforts to silence us,” said Jennifer Egan, President of PEN America.