English PEN joins PEN International and fellow centres around the world in welcoming the release of prominent Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was freed on 7 September 2019 as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
Sentsov, who was arrested more than five years ago has been a key case of concern to PEN centres, including colleagues at PEN Ukraine and PEN America who awarded Sentsov their PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in 2017.
Here in the UK, we have been actively campaigning for Sentsov’s release – including hosting a vigil outside the Embassy of Russia in London, publishing his short stories in translation thanks to Dr Uilleam Blacker, and highlighting his case at the English PEN Modern Literature Festival through performances by fellow writer Steven J Fowler. PEN members including Sir Tom Stoppard wrote to him in detention, and translator Sasha Dugdale helped to connect us with Russian speakers to help translate these letters into Russian. Thank you to everyone that took action
Following his release, Andrei Kurkov, President of PEN Ukraine, commented:
Oleg Sentsov is free! Many did not believe that this was possible under the current Russian government, but finally Oleg and 34 other Ukrainians have been released from Russian prisons and are home. For five years we have been talking continuously about Oleg Sentsov, we have been calling for his freedom. And today he is finally home, though his Crimea is still annexed by Russia. But he is at home, in Ukraine, and has already stated that he is ready to fight on. For Ukraine, for its sovereignty, for other Ukrainian political prisoners kept in Russian prisons, in the territories of Donbas controlled by separatists, and in annexed Crimea. But we all know that in the struggle for human rights, for the release of innocently convicted, for the restoration of justice no break can be taken. The fight must go on. The freeing of Oleg Sentsov should give us more hope, strength and perseverance.