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Imprisoned Ukrainian Journalist to be Honored by PEN America

A Ukrainian journalist imprisoned in Crimea will be honored next month at the PEN America gala. Vladyslav Yesypenko, arrested last year and recently sentenced to six years in a Russian labor camp for allegedly possessing and transporting explosives, is this year’s recipient of the PEN/Barbey Prize for Freedom to Write.

Yesypenko, 53, is a freelance correspondent for Krym.Realii Project, a Crimean radio program and news source run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He denied the allegations and said he confessed after being tortured and threatened with death. He was arrested in March 2021 by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia.

At the time, he was working on a video report on how life has changed in Crimea since its annexation by Russia eight years ago.

“Since February, the horrors of Russia’s war against Ukraine have been exposed to the world. But Russia’s campaign to stifle Ukraine goes back much further and intensified in 2014 with the illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula,” Suzanne Nossel, CEO of the literary and advocacy organization, said on Tuesday. human rights, in a press release.

“Indomitable reporters like Vladyslav Yesypenko have provided a portal for the world to see the Russian occupation for what it is, an exercise in force aimed at stifling the will of a free people.”

While in detention, Yesypenko wrote a letter, published by Krym.Realii, in which he claimed that “nothing shows the ugly nature of the occupying power than the constant filling of cells with new detainees on fabricated evidence”. his treatment by the FSB, he added: “It didn’t break me, but my hair seemed to be turning grey.”

His wife, Kateryna Yesypenko, will accept the award on his behalf at the May 23 gala at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Other winners will include author Zadie Smith and Audible founder Donald Katz.

The PEN Prize, called the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award when it was established in 1987, is awarded to writers and artists imprisoned for their work. Over the years, many winners have since been released, including the 2017 winner, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. He was released from a Russian prison two years later.