Sign the Petition: Demand Donald Trump Hold Vladimir Putin to International Standards of Free Speech

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President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump,

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, join PEN America in urging you to raise the critical issue of the growing number of political prisoners held in Russia during your discussions with President Vladimir Putin at the summit scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki, Finland. In particular, we ask that you raise the case of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. Oleg’s current situation is dire, as he has been on a hunger strike since May 14, 2018. We are deeply concerned that if progress is not made on Oleg’s case very soon, his life will be endangered.

Oleg Sentsov, the recipient of the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, was detained in May 2014 in his native Crimea and brought to Moscow on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism. On August 25, 2015, Oleg was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His trial has been condemned by numerous governments and human rights organizations as politically motivated, likely in retaliation for his outspoken criticism of the Russian occupation of Crimea.

On May 14, Oleg declared an indefinite hunger strike, stating that “the one and only condition for its termination is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners that are currently present on the territory of the Russian Federation.” He has stated he is willing to die to achieve this goal.

Oleg’s case has garnered support from around the world. In February, PEN America coordinated a global day of action for Oleg that saw events held in 24 cities across 16 countries. And in June more than 50 writers, artists, and activists signed a letter to President Putin calling for Oleg’s immediate and unconditional release. 

We were heartened to see the June 18 statement from the State Department that expressed concern for Oleg and a number of other political prisoners in Russia. We believe that your meetings with President Putin represent a critical opportunity to raise Oleg’s case and that of all political prisoners in Russia. We emphasize the urgency of Oleg’s situation in particular; his condition is grave and it is not clear how much longer he can survive. We hope you will take this opportunity to help save his life. 


Svetlana Alexievich, Belarusian PEN, Nobel Prize in Literature (2015)
Amnesty International USA
ARC (Artists at Risk Connection)
Homero Aridjis, President Emeritus, PEN International
Uladzimir Arlou, PEN Belarus
Alhierd Bacharevic, writer
Liavon Barščeuski, PEN Belarus
Adrian Basora, Former US ambassador to The Czech Republic
Andrei Bastunets, chairperson of Belarussian Association of Journalists
Ales Bialiatski, Chairman Human Rights Center Viasna, winner of the 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award by the US Department of State
Prof. Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Georgetown University
Eric Bjornlund, President, Democracy International
Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow for Russia, American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC
Viachaslau Bortnik, Belarusian American human rights defender
Tsikhan Charniakevich, Union of Belarusan Writers
Center for Civil Liberties
Siarhiej Dubaviec, PEN Belarus
Andrej Dynko, editor of Nasha Niva, Belarus
European Film Academy
Natallia Fedarenka, President, Belarusan-American Association
Aleksandr Feduta, political expert
Jamie Fly, Senior Fellow and Director, Future of Geopolitics, Asia Program, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington DC
Free Russia Foundation
Free Word Association
The Georgian Association in the USA
Carl Gershman, President, The National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC
Yana Goncharova, RosUznik
Melinda Haring, Atlantic Council and Foreign Policy Research Institute, Washington DC
Hungarian American Coalition
IPHR (International Partnership for Human Rights)
Joint Baltic American National Committee
Natalia Kaliada, Co-founding Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre
Alena Kazlova, PEN Belarus
Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Andrej Khadanovich, PEN Belarus
Nicolai Khalezin, Co-founding Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre
David J. Kramer, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Les Nouveaux Dissidents
Uladzimir Liankievič, PEN Belarus
Media Initiative for Human Rights
Ronald Meyer, Columbia University
Luis Navarro, Eurasia Program Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute
Tacciana Niadbaj, PEN Belarus
Tanja Nyberg, Executive Director, Magnitsky Act Initiative
PEN America
PEN International
Barys Piatrovich (Sachanka), chairperson of Union of Belarusan Writers, writer, translator
Polish American Congress
Tatsiana Reviaka, human rights defender
Yuliya Tsimafeyeva, poet, translator
Max Tuula, Producer, Marx Film
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America
Ukrainian PEN Center
Alexandre Ulitsenak, editor of socio-political weekly independent newspaper SNplus, Svobodnye novosti plus