Nobel laureates denounce Russia's war of words with Ukraine

PEN writers denounce 'propaganda' and 'lies' by Russia in campaign against Ukraine

Russian and Ukrainian writers have joined two Nobel laureates and others in condemning Russian actions in the Ukraine and the use of what they characterize as "propaganda" and "lies" in the campaign to annex parts of Ukraine to Russia.

PEN International released the statement following the organization's meeting last week in Stockholm. Those signing the document included Mario Vargas Llosa and Tomas Tranströmer. "For three months there have been incessant acts of aggression towards Ukraine from the side of the Russian Federation," the statement said.

Ukrainian and Russian writers have been meeting in a series of PEN International events since a February revolution drove Ukraine's president from power and Russia annexed Crimea and amassed troops along its border with Ukraine. As the Guardian reported in March, the Russian actions have been accompanied by a tighter grip on Russian media and a "rebranding" of Ukraine's revolution as a fascist movement.

In the PEN International statement, the leaders of both PEN Russia and PEN Ukraine spoke out against the Russian government. 

“Words are the only means we have to construct meaning and express reality," PEN Russia said.  "The Russian authorities are currently using words to destroy meaning. It goes without saying that this is a crime against culture.”  Ludmila Ulitskaya, vice president of Russian PEN, spoke of “the lies poisoning minds which have no other sources of information.”

PEN International linked the recent events in Russia and the Ukraine to its larger concerns about freedom of expression in Russia.

"PEN is particularly concerned about the tsunami of anti free expression laws emerging in Russia, which include treating international NGO’s as foreign agents; anti-gay laws; a law permitting the blocking of websites without a court order; laws against discussing Russian history; a Religious Defamation law," the statement said. "In the name of security, human rights are being dangerously undermined." 

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