Russia uses torture against Ukrainian artists — PEN America


You see an error in the text - select the fragment and press Ctrl + Enter

Russia uses repression against artists, writers and cultural figures as a tactic of cultural destruction. This is stated in the report of the delegation of writers and journalists from the American PEN on the losses of Ukrainian culture after February 24, 2022.


The report notes that since the unlawful occupation in 2014, writers, artists, and other cultural figures, especially those who criticize the occupation or separatist forces, have been illegally detained, imprisoned, and tortured in an effort to silence them and to stop them from writing and producing creative works. 


In particular in July 2014, occupation forces in Donetsk detained Serhiy Zakharov, who has been dubbed “the Banksy of Donetsk” for his irreverent street art, after he created and displayed public art mocking and criticizing the local authorities. “DPR” militants detained him and held him captive in his studio for over a month. He was repeatedly beaten and subject to mock executions. He wrote and illustrated a graphic novel describing his experience and that of other captives.


Donetsk occupiers also illegally detained poet, writer, scientist, and public activist Ihor Kozlovsky for nearly two years from 2016 to 2017.


The Ukrainian author and journalist Stanislav Aseyev, who reported on local developments for international news outlets under a pen name, Vasin, was detained in Donetsk in 2017 and illegally held for nearly two and a half years. He wrote a book, The Torture Camp on Paradise Street, about his detention.


From 2010 to 2014 the Izolyatsia Foundation: Platform for Cultural Initiatives operated on the site of a former insulating materials factory. During the first years of the foundation, more than 20 art projects were created. Well-known Ukrainian and foreign artists including Cai Guo-Qiang, Daniel Buren, Borys Mykhailov, and Lozano-Hemmer worked there, alongside promising young Ukrainian artists like Zhanna Kadyrova, Apl315, Roman Minin, Ivan Svitlychny, Gamlet Zinkivsky, and others.


On June 9, 2014, armed representatives of the “DPR” invaded the Foundation and converted it into a training facility for “DPR” fighters; a depot for automobiles, military technology, and weapons; a prison; and a secret torture facility. Former prisoners have remarked that the Izolyatsia buildings were not equipped to serve as a prison, and that its conditions more closely resembled those of a concentration camp. Prisoners were forced to work for the wardens, who regularly used physical violence, and were deprived of food, water, and medical care.


The report also emphasizes that since 2014, many writers, artists, and cultural workers have been forced to leave Russian-occupied territories or areas of active conflict for their own safety, escaping military conflict or repression or both, moving to other places in Ukraine and abroad.


Work on the American PEN report on the loss of Ukrainian culture after February 24, 2022 lasted from June to November 2022.


The delegation included writers and journalists:


  • Dave Eggers – American writer and publisher, works with human rights violations, advocates for the promotion of literature among young people and affordable higher education;
  • Peter Godwin – Zimbabwean writer, journalist and screenwriter, has worked as a foreign correspondent for leading British media in more than 60 countries. President of the American PEN in 2012-2015;
  • Barbara Demick – American journalist and writer, former Beijing and Seoul bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, Middle East and Balkans correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


“The occupation and war have wrought an incalculable toll on Ukraine’s cultural voices, creators, and workers. They are amongst the thousands killed and injured by Russian attacks, or detained and threatened by Russian forces. Many have fled their homes and communities. The need to focus on survival has frequently taken precedence over creative work and even when culture is not being deliberately targeted, the war has deeply disrupted creative production,” states the report.


PEN’s delegation also visited Chernihiv and Kyiv oblasts (Bucha, Gostomel, Borodyanka, Irpin) to see the consequences of Russia’s full-scale invasion and targeting of civilian objects, including architectural monuments, educational and cultural institutions.


Read also: Ukrainians Stanislav Aseyev, Julia Paevska (Tayra) and Oleksandra Matviichuk spoke at Frankfurt Book Fair and told about russian war crimes.


Featured photo:

Source: PEN America